June 30, 2016

Korn - See You On The Other Side (Special Edition) (2005)

*Contains a second disc with 5 bonus tracks.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Metal
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© 2005 EMI, Virgin Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Korn first talked reinvention with 2003's Take a Look in the Mirror. Self-produced, it was a muscular, effectively brief record that nodded in some intriguing new directions. After that they talked celebration -- 2004's greatest-hits set looked back on a decade of influence and intensity. And yet, it's 2005's See You on the Other Side that's Korn's real reinvention celebration. It's their first album as a quartet after getting left behind by born-again guitarist Brian "Head" Welch. It's also their first venture for new label Virgin. But really Other Side is Korn's acknowledgement that their life isn't all that bad, and it's time to party. It's a heavy record that swings, an album that takes Korn's rap-metal template toward the red-light swagger of the Dirty South's rap revolution. Is it really surprising that Lil Jon plays Jonathan Davis in the video for "Twisted Transistor"? That song's one of eight on Other Side produced and co-written by the Matrix, and it shows. It's Korn all the way, cocky and funky. But it's slick too, concerned more with the shock value of groove than trying to be some poor kid's slap bass confidant, his surrogate therapy session. And it works. It's cool to hear the Matrix getting down with Korn; they keep each other honest, balancing the sheen with the sleaze. Davis, Munky, Fieldy, and David Silveria still bring it, but in a way that's aware of the manufacturing. And that's key, since after ten-plus years, their act was getting a little tired. Why not embrace the cash, embrace the slinkier side of Fieldy's vertical rhythms? The target of "Politics" is obvious, and "Hypocrites" rails against organized religion. But beneath the polemic is the Korn sound stripped, made truly economized and catchy. Diehards are going to gnash their teeth, and clog the message boards with dismissive comments. But isn't it about time for them to move on, too? Other Side is a little too processed at times -- "Love Song" says "Motherf*cker!" just to know it's alive. But then there's "Open Up," running a NIN influence through weird processing, and "Getting Off," which wavers and lurches like Korn chopped and screwed. If rap-metal were ever meant to evolve, See You on the Other Side is the record that does it.

tags: korn, see you on the other side, special edition, 2005, flac,

June 25, 2016

Korn - Untouchables (Limited Edition) (2002)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Metal, Nü-Metal
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© 2002 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Bradley Torreano
After a three-year break that included solo projects and soundtrack work, Korn's re-emergence in the summer of 2002 was met with great anticipation. They delivered Untouchables, an album that shows them building on their previous sound and emphasizing its strengths. The use of melody is more important than ever, allowing Jonathan Davis to utilize his wide palette of vocal tricks. His charismatic voice can now move from a clear-throated wail to a death metal growl with ease, lending the album a manic side that brings to mind King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime-era Faith No More. The only problem with Davis is his lyrics, which tend to fall into the "am I going crazy" trap that many of Korn's contemporaries perpetuate. This is a shame, because here he often avoids the social issues that he confronted on the first few releases. The band is far more experimental this time out, delivering Helmet-like ringing guitars that melt and morph into each other, a mix of Metallica-esque blastbeats and tight funk drumming from the constantly improving David Silveria, and memorable riffs that take the shape of dark sound structures and offer more than just a collection of chords. In fact, it is the last point where the album sets itself apart from most nu-metal offerings; Korn understand that the overall sound of hip-hop works because of the sonic stew that producers create through samples. The band does the same with instruments, cutting the chugging riffs of the past and replacing them with edgy soundscapes that are equally as menacing. There isn't even a rapped verse here, save for Davis' rhythmic scatting at moments, further distancing the band from the scene it helped create. But by cutting away some of the fat and finding new ways to deliver their trademark roar, Korn manage to offer a strong and lean album that maintains their place as innovators in a genre with few leaders.

tags: korn, untouchables, limited edition, 2002, flac,

June 22, 2016

Eagles - The Best of Eagles (1985)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Rock, Classic Rock
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© 1985 Asylum Records
*No professional reviews available for this reviews.

tags: eagles, the eagles, the best of eagles, 1985, flac,

June 20, 2016

Michael Jackson - Ben (1972)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, R&B
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© 1972-1993 Motown Records
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer
 Although having just entered his teens, pop prodigy Michael Jackson's star was still very much on the ascent, circa his second full-length release, Ben (1972). This LP should not be confused with the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack from the Phil Karlson-directed "thriller" of the same name, and while blessed with an undeniable visual presence, Jackson was otherwise not involved in the creature feature. Like much of the Motown empire at the time, the title track's multimedia exposure, coupled with strong crossover appeal, insured that "Ben" scored the artist his first Pop Singles' chart-topper. Yet one interesting shift was the lack of participation from the Motown hitmaking machine known collectively as "the Corporation". While the aggregate had dominated most of the Jackson Five's early recordings and contributed their fair share to Jackson's debut, Got to Be There (1971), besides the title track, the only other cut to bear their unmistakable smooth production style is the practically perfunctory midtempo "We've Got a Good Thing Going." The catchy "Greatest Show on Earth" has a cinematic quality that stands out thanks to an excellent arrangement from James Anthony Carmichael -- one of several he scored for the project. While not a cover in the traditional sense, "People Make the World Go 'Round" was actually released within a few weeks of the Stylistics' more familiar hit. Although the reading heard here is equally impassioned, the emotive impact could arguably be greater thanks to the optimism infused with innocence in Jackson's vocals. "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" owes greatly to the Heartbeats' doo wop version, as opposed to Jimmy Scott's earlier classic. Jackson is obviously quite familiar with the former's phrasing while adding an age-defying maturity of his own. Returning back to his Hitsville roots, "My Girl" is updated with a funkier rhythm. The vocalist responds in kind with his own soulful lead that soars over the freshly syncopated chorus. The score includes some call-and-response interaction similar to what he and his brothers had displayed on the Jackson Five's selections "Nobody" and "The Love You Save," among countless others. "What Goes Around Comes Around" is one of Ben's better deep cuts with the vibrant melody perfectly matched to the artist's youthful voice. Of lesser note is the hopelessly dated "message" in the filler track "In Our Small Way." Luckily, a pair of winners conclude the effort with the propulsive and funky "Shoo Be Doo Be Doo Da Day" -- which was co-written by Stevie Wonder -- and the Berry Gordy-penned midtempo "You Can Cry on My Shoulder." Ben -- along with rest of Michael Jackson's recordings for Motown, can be found as part of the excellent and thoroughly annotative three-disc Hello World: The Motown Solo Collection (2009).

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June 18, 2016

Britney Spears - Britney Jean (2013)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop
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© 2013 RCA Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Typically, whenever a self-titled album arrives fairly far into an artist's career it signifies a rebirth, a moment when the musician reconnects to what's real and true. That's the party line on Britney Jean, Britney Spears' eighth album (she already used Britney as the title of her third album, way back in 2001). Prior to its December 2013 release, Britney called Britney Jean one of her most "personal" records, a term that carries a certain weight, suggesting that the brief album -- a mere ten songs and 36 minutes in its standard form and not much longer in its deluxe expansion -- would offer insight into the spectral pop star. As it turns out, Britney Jean is a streamlined approximation of 2011's Femme Fatale, which itself attempted to re-create the producer-driven magic of 2007's Blackout, the album that seems destined to be the apex and turning point of Spears' career. Dr. Luke, the main producer behind Femme Fatale's two big hits ("Till the World Ends" and "Hold It Against Me"), is absent, as is her longtime collaborator Max Martin, who worked on those two Dr. Luke-produced hits. In their place is will.i.am, the Black Eyed Peas leader who happened to be responsible for Femme Fatale's nadir, "Big Fat Bass." will.i.am sports producer credits on seven of the ten songs on Britney Jean and is listed as executive producer, responsible for shaping the sound and direction of the album. Often, this means Britney seems to be playing a role will.i.am created just for her, a situation not unfamiliar to Spears, who has been receding from her own albums since the tumultuous Blackout, but often seems little more than a whisper here. Naturally, the best moments arrive when she's forced to the front, which is usually the case with pop stars: she's the focus on the Katy Perry co-written and Diplo-produced "Passenger," the purest pop moment on the record that finds a counterpart in the album's best ballad, "Perfume"; her bizarre vocal affectations invigorate "Work Bitch" (it's hard to resist her faux British phrasing) and are mildly irritating but memorable on the Jamie Lynn Spears duet "Chillin' with You." Elsewhere, will.i.am, sometimes assisted by David Guetta, puts Britney through Euro-disco paces, not quite caring whether it reveals something personal about Spears or even fits her vocals. As the record progresses, Britney sounds increasingly listless, fading into the synthesizers and bass, and only William Orbit knows what to do with that sad, existential loneliness, placing it firmly in the center on "Alien." As the album opener, it's hard to ignore but it inadvertently sets the tone for the rest of Britney Jean: she's not one of us and doesn't feel comfortable where she's at, and that uneasiness underpins the rest of this vaguely dispiriting album.

tags: britney spears, britney jean, 2013, flac,

June 15, 2016

Steel Panther - Feel The Steel (2009)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Glam Metal
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© 2009 Universal Republic Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Lymangrover
In case you're wondering, despite what VH-1's Behind the Music might have you believe, hair metal is still alive and kicking. Unfortunately, it's more low-brow than ever, thanks to L.A.'s Steel Panther. Taking debauchery to the next level for their debut, Feel the Steel, the band gathers inspiration from Warrant, Poison, and Mötley Crüe as they pretend to be a metal group with two primal desires: rocking faces and scoring chicks. Metal satire is a well-traveled road, with Bad News, Spinal Tap, and Tenacious D all taking their respective turns portraying lunk-headed metalheads. Likewise, one-time L.A. Guns frontman Ralph Saenz (playing the part of "Michael Starr") does his best impression of an egotistical David Lee Roth/Bret Michaels type who dedicates 50-percent of his time on the microphone objectifying women ("Fat Girl Thar She Blows) and the other half boasting about his appendage. It's a convincing act, as is the performance by the rest of the band (drummer Stix Zadinia, bassist Lexxi Foxxx, and lead guitarist Satchel), with their text-book Hit Parader shredding and spot-on attention to '80s production details. Metal references fly out of every corner, with nods to the Def Leppard ultra-processed "Whoa Oh" sound, Richie Sambora's "Bad Medicine" guitar talk box intro, and a slapping acoustic ode to Extreme's definitive power ballad "More Than Words." Steel Panther's ability to create songs that sound like they came from 1987 is commendable, and as ridiculously clichéd and crude as the lyrics are, there are some chuckle-worthy moments. That said, it's not a disc for the easily offended or the faint of heart.

June 11, 2016

Michael Jackson - Got To Be There (1971)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, R&B
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© 1971-1986 Motown Records
AllMusic Review by Rob Theakston
Riding high on the wild success of the Jackson 5, Motown ringleader Berry Gordy assembled every single notable production team member and songwriter in his arsenal to contribute to the solo debut of the J5's boy wonder, Michael. By the time Got to Be There was released, much had changed in the Jackson dynamic, none the least Michael's voice. But this album launched three chart singles: a cover of the bubblegum classic "Rockin' Robin," Leon Ware's "I Wanna Be Where You Are," and the title track. As a cohesive album, Got to Be There is wildly erratic, and his covers of "You've Got a Friend" and "Ain't No Sunshine" show Jackson's versatility as a singer. It was a world away from the politically charged sound of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and the introspection that would later grace some of the best works of Stevie Wonder. But Got to Be There kept Gordy as king of the sound of young America -- at least for a few months longer.

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Michael Jackson - Off The Wall (1979)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, Disco
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© 1979-1986 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Michael Jackson had recorded solo prior to the release of Off the Wall in 1979, but this was his breakthrough, the album that established him as an artist of astonishing talent and a bright star in his own right. This was a visionary album, a record that found a way to break disco wide open into a new world where the beat was undeniable, but not the primary focus -- it was part of a colorful tapestry of lush ballads and strings, smooth soul and pop, soft rock, and alluring funk. Its roots hearken back to the Jacksons' huge mid-'70s hit "Dancing Machine," but this is an enormously fresh record, one that remains vibrant and giddily exciting years after its release. This is certainly due to Jackson's emergence as a blindingly gifted vocalist, equally skilled with overwrought ballads as "She's Out of My Life" as driving dancefloor shakers as "Working Day and Night" and "Get on the Floor," where his asides are as gripping as his delivery on the verses. It's also due to the brilliant songwriting, an intoxicating blend of strong melodies, rhythmic hooks, and indelible construction. Most of all, its success is due to the sound constructed by Jackson and producer Quincy Jones, a dazzling array of disco beats, funk guitars, clean mainstream pop, and unashamed (and therefore affecting) schmaltz that is utterly thrilling in its utter joy. This is highly professional, highly crafted music, and its details are evident, but the overall effect is nothing but pure pleasure. Jackson and Jones expanded this approach on the blockbuster Thriller, often with equally stunning results, but they never bettered it.

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June 10, 2016

Madonna - American Life (2003)


Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop
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© 2003 Maverick, Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
American Life is an album performed by a vocalist who has abandoned the U.S. for the U.K. and co-produced by a French techno mastermind, recorded during a time of strife in America, and released just after the country completed a war. Given that context and given that the vocalist is arguably the biggest star in the world, the title can't help but carry some import, carry the weight of social commentary. And it follows through on that promise, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly, but either way, American Life winds up as the first Madonna record with ambitions as serious as a textbook. It plays as somberly as either Like a Prayer or Ray of Light, just as it delves into an insular darkness as deep as Erotica while retaining the club savviness of the brilliant, multi-colored Music. This is an odd mixture, particularly when it's infused with a searching, dissatisfied undercurrent and a musical sensibility that is at once desperate and adventurous, pitched halfway between singer/songwriterisms and skimming of current club culture. It's pulled tight between these two extremes, particularly because the intimate guitar-based songs (and there are a lot of them, almost all beginning with just her and a guitar) are all personal meditations, with the dance songs usually functioning as vehicles for social commentary. Even if the sparer ballads are introspective, they're treated as soundscapes by producer Mirwais, giving them an unsettling eerie quality that is mirrored by the general hollowness of the club songs. While there are some interesting sounds on these tracks, they sound bleak and hermetically sealed, separate from what's happening either in the mainstream or in the underground. Perhaps that's because she's aligned herself with such flash-in-the-pan trends as electroclash, a hipster movement that's more theoretical than musical, whose ill effects can be heard on the roundly panned James Bond theme "Die Another Day," featured toward the end of American Life. Then again, it could also be that this is the first time that Madonna has elected to rap -- frequently and frenetically -- on a record, something that logistically would fit with Mirwais' dense, house-heavy productions, but sound embarrassingly awkward coming out of her mouth. But that insular feel also comes from the smaller-scale, confessional songs, particularly because Mirwais doesn't give them depth and the songs themselves are imbalanced, never quite having a notable hook in the music or words. Even so, there's a lot that's interesting about American Life -- the half-hearted stabs at politics fall aside, and there are things bubbling in the production that are quite infectious, while the stretch from "Nobody Knows Me" to "X-Static Process" in the middle of the record can be quite moving. But, overall, American Life is better for what it promises than what it delivers, and it's better in theory than practice.

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Janet Jackson - Damita Jo (2004)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B, Pop
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© 2004 Vigin Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
"Relax, it's just sex," Janet Jackson murmurs at the conclusion of "Sexhibition," the third song on her eighth album, Damita Jo. Those words were recorded long before Jackson wound up America with her breast-baring exploits at the halftime show at the 2004 Super Bowl, but they nevertheless play like an casual response to the hysteria that engulfed the nation following her infamous "wardrobe malfunction." But, really, they're there to head off any criticism that could be leveled at Damita Jo, yet another album that finds Janet exploring her sexuality, a voyage she's been on for about 11 years (Magellan and his crew circled the globe in a third that time, but hey, who's counting?). While sex indisputably fuels much great pop music, it isn't an inherently fascinating topic for pop music -- as with anything, it all depends on the artist. Prince, of course, found an endless amount of ways to write intriguingly about sex, since it fired his imagination, a quality that has been missing on Janet's albums since 1993's janet.. With its preponderance of slow-tempo, sensual grooves, sexual imagery, occasional up-tempo jams, and endless spoken interludes, it provided the blueprint for every record she made since, from the heavy eroticism of 1997's The Velvet Rope to the bedroom sighs of 2001's All for You. The latter suggested that she was abandoning the explicitness of The Velvet Rope, but Damita Jo proves that she was merely flirting with modesty, since it's as explicit as pop music gets. Actually, it's the aural equivalent of hardcore pornography -- it leaves nothing to the imagination and it's endlessly repetitive. Like a porn star, Janet adopts an alter ego built on her middle name ("There's another side that you will never know: Damita Jo"), provides detailed oral-sex manuals with "Warmth" and "Moist," nicknames her clitoris, and tosses around allusions to a variety of taboo sex acts; in this context, all the interview snippets scattered throughout the record -- "I love curling up with a good book and relaxing by the ocean with my baby," "When you look at me, do you want me?" -- recall nothing less than a Playboy or Penthouse centerfold confessing her turn-ons. Such doggedly literal lyrics lack any sensuality, and weigh Damita Jo down. If the music had its own sensuality or spark, it'd be easier to forgive or overlook Jackson's whispered vulgarities, but the album's slow grooves blend together, lacking rhythmic or melodic hooks. Jackson disappears into the productions, once again largely the responsibility of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, becoming part of the arrangement instead of standing in front of it. And while there are a couple of cuts that do cut through the slow-groove loops -- on the slower side, "I Want You" has a verse that's memorable, while "Just a Little While" is a good dance tune -- they pale next to the hits from All for You; that they stand out on Damita Jo says more about the album than the songs themselves. Ironically, for an album with so much sex on its mind, it's not a good make-out record because its grooves are cold and Janet's ceaseless dirty talk spoils whatever mood the music had struggled to create. Once, Ms. Jackson's sexual obsession was indeed sexy and erotic, but by this point, it's not just tired, it's embarrassing.

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June 09, 2016

U2 - Boy (1980)

Country: Ireland
Language: English
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1980-1986 Island Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
From the outset, U2 went for the big message -- every song on their debut album Boy sounds huge, with oceans of processed guitars cascading around Bono's impassioned wail. It was an inspired combination of large, stadium-rock beats and post-punk textures. Without the Edge's echoed, ringing guitar, U2 would have sounded like a traditional hard rock band, since the rhythm section and Bono treat each song as an anthem. Of course, that's the charm of Boy: all of its emotions are on the surface, delivered with optimistic, youthful self-belief, yet the unusual, distinctive guitar textures give it an unexpected tension that makes it an exhilarating debut. The songs may occasionally show some weakness -- the driving "I Will Follow," the dark "An Cat Dubh," and the shimmering "The Ocean" stand out among the sonic textures -- yet the band's musical and lyrical vision keep Boy compelling until the finish.

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June 07, 2016

Heaven & Hell - The Devil You Know (2009)⚓


Country: United Kingdom/U.S.A
Genre: Doom Metal, Heavy Metal
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© 2009 Rhino Records
AllMusic Review by Phil Freeman
It's almost a blessing that, for legal reasons, this four-piece can't call itself Black Sabbath. It only serves to hammer home the point that with Ronnie James Dio up front and Vinny Appice in back, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler express a very different side of their musical personalities than they ever did with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals and Bill Ward on drums. Where the original lineup was an ultra-heavy blues band, with a rhythm section that never failed to swing (OK, they failed a little bit on "Sweet Leaf"), when Dio came on board in 1980 the group was reinvented as a heavy metal juggernaut. While Iommi's riffs remained crushingly heavy, the rhythms got faster on songs like "Neon Knights," "Turn Up the Night," and "Mob Rules," and the lyrics abandoned the earthly concerns of "Paranoid" and "Hand of Doom" for Dio's abstract symbolism and myth-making. These differences became more stark with each album (Heaven and Hell, Mob Rules, and 1992's reunion disc Dehumanizer), and now, The Devil You Know confirms once and for all this lineup's unique take on the genre it helped invent. This is a heavier album than any of its three predecessors; whether it's due to the bandmembers' advancing age or the influence of anxieties felt throughout the world outside the studio, it's the closest in spirit to the first two Black Sabbath albums, themselves forged in the psychic darkness that was the tail end of the 1960s. It's not until "Eating the Cannibals," track seven of ten, that the band revs into high gear the way it did on "Neon Knights" and "Turn Up the Night" 20-plus years ago. The songs that begin the album, and make up the bulk of its running time, are like slow-motion avalanches, Iommi's riffs and Appice's drumming punishing the listener like medieval monks scourging unbelievers. Dio's lyrics, too, seem to embody an almost Old Testament world-view, positing a universe of darkness, fire, and despair. His voice is as powerful as ever, but he's no longer offering self-esteem lessons the way he once did; he seems consumed by fear and doubt. This gives The Devil You Know a feeling of genuine doom that leaves little opportunity for the catharsis provided by classic heavy metal. While the Osbourne-fronted and Dio-fronted versions of Black Sabbath are, again, very different bands, this is an album that matches its moment every bit as perfectly as Paranoid did back in 1970.

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June 06, 2016

Accept - Balls To The Wall (1983)⚓

Country: Germany
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1983-1990 RCA Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Accept's most notorious album, Balls to the Wall was also their biggest commercial success. Following hot upon the heels of their creative breakthrough, Restless and Wild, you'd also be hard pressed to find a more sexually charged record in any musical genre. Its hysterically nonsensical lyrics notwithstanding, the legendary title track remains an irresistible, fist-pumping masterpiece that came to epitomize the modern, slow-marching metal anthem as it became known. And when paired with second single "London Leatherboys," it arguably constitutes the most blatantly homoerotic couplet in the history of heavy metal (eat your heart out, Rob Halford). "Fight It Back" is about as close as the band gets to their old, semi-thrashing ways (taken to the limit the previous year with the maniacal "Fast as a Shark"), and it is the more melodic "Head Over Heels" and semi-ballad "Losing More Than You've Ever Had" that set the tone for Accept's future direction. The album's third undisputed classic, the driving "Love Child," kicks off side two with one of metal's great staccato riffs -- so good, the band revisits it nearly verbatim a few songs later with "Losers and Winners," which is nearly as powerful. And though not quite as celebrated, the remaining tracks are no less potent, especially the slowly building tension heard on the downright lascivious "Turn Me On." The bottom line here is that this, like its predecessor Restless and Wild, is an essential heavy metal album, and any fan worth his salt should own them both. But, for the sake of first-time visitors, Balls to the Wall is the slightly more melodic, less gritty of the two. Whichever you chose, you can only win.

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Accept - Accept (1979)

*Original first CD pressing. Released in 1995 by Castle Comunications PLC.

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1979-1995 Castle Communications PLC
AllMusic Review by Andy Hinds
On Accept's first album these Teutonic headbangers still standing under the Scorpions' shadow have yet to find their voice. Compared to the crushing sound Accept developed later (starting with the excellent Restless and Wild album), this effort sounds quite lame. Only for diehards and completists.

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NSYNC - NSYNC (1997)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop
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© 1997 RCA, BMG Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Riding the wave of post-Spice Girls dance-pop groups and sounding suspiciously like a low-rent, American Take That, the Orlando, FL-based *NSYNC came bursting out of roller rinks across the U.S. in the spring of 1998 with their eponymous debut. The group hired a number of producers, including the Backstreet Boys' Kristian Lundin as well as Denniz Pop and Max Martin (the team behind Robyn and Ace of Base), all of whom help turn the album into a pleasing piece of ear candy. *NSYNC don't have the charisma or tunes of the Spice Girls or All Saints on this debut, nor do they have a visionary like Gary Barlow or a sex symbol like Robbie Williams in the group. The only thing the five boys of *NSYNC have is good looks, good producers, and a couple of catchy singles like "I Want You Back." That's enough for a hit, and not quite enough for an album. Even so, the filler is well made and competently performed, which means their teen fans will enjoy the album while it's hot. Whether they return to it again -- either out of affection or kitsch -- is another matter entirely.

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June 04, 2016

Cyndi Lauper - Hat Full of Stars (1993)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, Pop Rock
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© 1993 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Mike DeGagne
After Cyndi Lauper's disappointing A Night to Remember release, she took matters into her own hands for 1993's Hat Full of Stars, giving more of her attention to the writing and to the album's overall musical appearance. Unfortunately, the same results resurfaced, and the album failed to give Lauper a single, which at least A Night to Remember did. Hat Full of Stars has Lauper all over the map, converging into folk, soul, and other styles that have her sounding out of context and diluted. Many of the tracks have Lauper singing about social issues, and although it's a valiant effort, the seriousness just doesn't comply with her persona or her customary flamboyancy. Even with the help of Ron Hyman and Eric Bazillian, tracks like "Product of Misery" and "Someone Like Me" fail to get off the ground, mainly because of their tone and heavy lyrical weight. The title track and "That's What I Think," along with "Sally's Pigeons," make for the most promising of the 11 cuts, even though "Who Let in the Rain" and "A Part Hate" are courageous attempts. Sounding a little too driven and like she has something to prove, Lauper's adroitness seems forced to a certain degree, and the chemistry that is endeavored falls short of its mark. Cyndi Lauper sounds much more appealing and enjoyable as an effervescent pop singer wading through simplistic and feel-good material rather than trying to befriend mildly opinionated pieces, which is what happens throughout most of Hat Full of Stars.

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Usher - 8701 (2000)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 2000 Artista Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Usher has the reputation as a loverman, largely because he fits the bill so well. He looks good, his material is smooth and seductive, and he has a nice voice, even if he tends to favor melisma. This has been true throughout his career, and remains true on his third album, 8701, a classy, seductive affair masterminded by Usher, Jermaine Dupri, and Antonio "L.A." Reid. There's not much new here, but Usher does move further in both directions -- the ballads are lusher, the dance numbers hit a bit harder -- but not so much so that it's really noticeable. Overall, the record is probably his strongest yet, but he still suffers from a lack of really memorable material (the singles usually are pretty good, but the album tracks are filler) and a tendency to oversing. Because of these two things, 8701 is more mood music than anything else, and while it does work fairly well on that level, it's not memorable outside of that mood.

tags: usher, 8701, 2000, flac,

June 03, 2016

Volbeat - Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie (Deluxe Edition) (2016)

*Contains a second disc with 4 bonus tracks.
Country: Denmark
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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               *****
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© 2016 Vertigo/Republic/Universal Records
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
Seal the Deal & Let's Boogie is the sixth studio album by Danish rockers Volbeat. Co-produced by Jacob Hansen, guitarist Rob Caggiano, and singer Michael Poulsen, this set features the group's signature meld of hard-rocking bluster, heavy metal aggression, retro-rockabilly, and '70s power blues swagger. The pre-release single "The Devil's Bleeding Crown" showcases punishing riffs and anthemic choruses.

tags: volbeat, seal the deal and lets boogie, deluxe edition, 2016, flac,

June 02, 2016

Janet Jackson - Dream Street (1984)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, R&B
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© 1984 A&M Records
AllMusic Review by Ed Hogan
A listen to Janet Jackson's Dream Street brings to mind remembrances of the then-teenaged singer's appearances on American Bandstand, shyly answering questions from host Dick Clark, as well as her short stint as a regular on the syndicated series Fame. The first single, "Don't Stand Another Chance," was a family affair, produced by brother Marlon Jackson with vocal ad-libs by Michael Jackson. It was a Top Ten R&B hit during the summer of 1984. The extended 12" mix rocks, showcasing outstanding synth work by John Barnes. Other standouts are the smeary Minneapolis funk cut "Pretty Boy" produced by Jesse Johnson, and both "Hold Back the Tears" and "If It Takes All Night" are prime examples of pleasing '80s pop.

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Janet Jackson - Janet Jackson (1982)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, R&B, Disco
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© 1982 BMG Direct Marketing, Inc.
AllMusic Review by Bil Carpenter
Debut album of youth-oriented pop with "Young Love," a minor disco hit.

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Vanadium - Born To Fight (1986)

Country: Italy
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1986 Durium Records
* No professional reviews available

Vanadium - Metal Rock (1982)

Country: Italy
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1982 Durium Records
* No professional reviews available
 


June 01, 2016

Mötley Crüe - Saints of Los Angeles (2008)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal, Hard Rock
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© 2008 Mötley Crüe Records/Eleven Seven Music
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
Since their last hit record, 1989's Dr. Feelgood, Mötley Crüe fans have endured countless live albums, "greatest-hits" collections, reissues and B-sides packages, a record with John Corabi on vocals, one with Randy Castillo behind the kit and one with the original lineup that sank with barely a trace (1997's Generation Swine). The most successful thing the band produced in those ensuing years was its tell-all autobiography, The Dirt, a story so drenched in sex, drugs, and rock & roll that it elicited a venereal disease and a contact high just through picking it up. That book is the impetus behind Saints of Los Angeles, the first record to feature the group's original lineup since Swine, and it's a welcome -- though spotty -- return to form for these aging miscreants. The Crüe are at their best when they mine the manic, punk-infused glam metal of the pre-saturated, mid-'80s Sunset Strip, something they get right on opening cut "Face Down in the Dirt," complete with a Shout at the Devil-era, "In the Beginning"-inspired intro. "Down at the Whisky" echoes the West Coast excess of Girls, Girls, Girls, managing to wax both nostalgic and devious while dutifully summing up the band's rise from local pranksters to international bad boys, while the rousing title cut, though a bit forced, manages to drum up the kind of chest-thumping bravado that sparked some of the best metal anthems of the late '80s. Like all Crüe albums, things start to go south about halfway through, and while the performances and subject matter are as raucous and sadistic as the book upon which they're based, it's all a bit too deliberate. Motley Crue have been trumpeting their hedonism for so long and so loudly that it's become more of a caricature than a way of life, and while Saints of Los Angeles is the best thing they've laid to tape since their codpiece heydays, it's more of a walk down memory lane/Sunset Strip than a legitimate call to arms.

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Mötley Crüe - Generation Swine (1997)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1997 Elektra Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
No other band embodies the successes and failures of '80s metal better than Mötley Crüe. After Dr. Feelgood made them one of America's biggest rock bands, the group won a record-breaking, multi-million dollar contract from Elektra in 1991. Within months of signing, Nirvana banished hair metal from the charts, and, shortly afterward, singer Vince Neil left the band. They struggled through a virtually ignored album in 1994 before reuniting with Neil in 1996. According to rumor, they were pressured by the label to reunite, which makes sense: their investment was completely blown, and their only chance to make any money at all was to have the original band come back together and market that as an event. Of course, it benefited the band as well, since by the time they released Generation Swine in the summer of 1997, it was nearly a full decade since Dr. Feelgood -- there was no other way they could get any attention. Not that the Crüe doesn't try to shake things up, hiring Nine Inch Nails keyboardist Charlie Clouser to bring some alternative and industrial textures to Generation Swine. It doesn't work at all, because Motley Crue is tied down to their sleaze metal, which wouldn't be a bad thing if they had come up with any catchy riffs. Instead, they're simply recycling old ideas and sounds. And while Neil does sound better than John Corabi, the man who briefly replaced him, it sounds like the band made the tracks for any singer at all, as if his presence was just a coincidence. (At least that problem doesn't plague "Brandon," where drummer Tommy Lee sings a shockingly mawkish tribute to his first son.) Consequently, Generation Swine is nothing short of an embarrassment.

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