August 27, 2016

Scorpions - Love At First Sting (1984)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1984-1990 Mercury Records
AllMusic Review by Barry Weber
Although the Scorpions had already achieved fame after 1982's Blackout, Love at First Sting brought them their biggest single of the decade, the slick anthem "Rock You Like a Hurricane," with some greatly underrated songs to back it up. The album opens with the hair-raising "Bad Boys Running Wild" and continues with songs such as the memorable "Big City Nights" and the half-ballad, half-powerhouse rocker "Coming Home." The record also contains what just may be the band's best ballad ever, the tear-jerking "Still Loving You." Considering the fact that it has some of their best-ever singles,Love at First Sting is definitely a must for all fans of the Scorpions.

tags: scorpions, love at first sting, 1984, flac,

August 20, 2016

Iced Earth - The Glorious Burden (Limited Edition) (2004)⚓

*Contains a second disc with 3 bonus tracks.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal
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                *****
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© 2004 SPV, Steamhammer Records
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
Earth indulge guitarist and principal songwriter Jon Schaeffer's passion -- some would say obsession -- for history. On the bonus-disc edition, there are 11 tracks on the first disc, and on Disc Two, a three-part suite entitled "Gettysburg." Disc One begins, appropriately enough, with "The Star-Spangled Banner," played in overdrive with plenty of crunch, but nonetheless reverently. That statement aside, the album truly begins with "Declaration Day," an examination of the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the beginning of the American Revolution. Singer Tim Owens steps into the fray and relates, amid the bone-crushing riffing and half-time drum thud. But interestingly, it's a track that gets juxtaposed with the one that follows it, "When the Eagle Cries." Together they comprise a kind of view across the historical battlefield, from the tyranny of the British Empire to the tyranny of terrorism. The latter cut, with its haunting acoustic guitars in the front line before it breaks wide open, sort of looks back at "Declaration Day" and notes its inspiration. A truly majestic song full of plodding, jarring chords and a hooky chorus, it is part funeral hymn, and part a call-to-arms. Indeed, as the careening bombast of "The Reckoning (Don't Tread on Me)," comes into sharp focus, one can see that Schaeffer's intent is to very clearly showcase the various difficult, and even horrifying, moments confronting America since its inception -- one can read double meanings in all the songs that have American lore at their core. America isn't the mythical and/or archetypal muse here: on tracks such as "Attila," and "Red Baron/Blue Max," the metaphors are extended to two more figures from the dust of the past. At last, here is a record about patriotism that contains no jingoism; it offers its perceptions honestly and without compromise, but instead of going along for the ride, it offers a place to argue from, as well as to enjoy. Highly recommended.

tags: iced earth, the glorious burden, limited edition, 2004, flac,

August 19, 2016

Pink Floyd - Soundtrack From The Film: More (1969)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Rock
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© 1969-1987 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger
Commissioned as a soundtrack to the seldom-seen French hippie movie of the same name, More was a Pink Floyd album in its own right, reaching the Top Ten in Britain. The group's atmospheric music was a natural for movies, but when assembled for record, these pieces were unavoidably a bit patchwork, ranging from folky ballads to fierce electronic instrumentals to incidental mood music. Several of the tracks are pleasantly inconsequential, but this record does include some strong compositions, especially "Cymbaline," "Green Is the Colour," and "The Nile Song." All of these developed into stronger pieces in live performances, and better, high-quality versions are available on numerous bootlegs.

tags: pink floyd, soundtrack from the film more, more soundtrack, ost, 1969, flac,

Pink Floyd - Meddle (1971)

*Original first pressing on CD
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Progressive Rock
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© 1971-1986 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Atom Heart Mother, for all its glories, was an acquired taste, and Pink Floyd wisely decided to trim back its orchestral excesses for its follow-up, Meddle. Opening with a deliberately surging "One of These Days," Meddle spends most of its time with sonic textures and elongated compositions, most notably on its epic closer, "Echoes." If there aren't pop songs in the classic sense (even on the level of the group's contributions to Ummagumma), there is a uniform tone, ranging from the pastoral "A Pillow of Winds" to "Fearless," with its insistent refrain hinting at latter-day Floyd. Pink Floyd were nothing if not masters of texture, and Meddle is one of their greatest excursions into little details, pointing the way to the measured brilliance of Dark Side of the Moon and the entire Roger Waters era. Here, David Gilmour exerts a slightly larger influence, at least based on lead vocals, but it's not all sweetness and light -- even if its lilting rhythms are welcome, "San Tropez" feels out of place with the rest of Meddle. Still, the album is one of the Floyd's most consistent explorations of mood, especially from their time at Harvest, and it stands as the strongest record they released between Syd's departure and Dark Side.

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August 18, 2016

Montell Jordan - Let's Ride (1998)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 1998 Def Jam Records
AllMusic Review by Leo Stanley
When a debut single is as strong as Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It," it's hard to ever match or exceed the single's reputation -- or at least, the perception that the single was the peak of the artist's career. As his third album, Let's Ride, proves, he has more to offer than just "This Is How We Do It," but it's still hard to shake that song from your head while listening to the album. The main problem is that, despite his sultry voice, Jordan has yet to establish a clear identity for himself and his material tends to have even less character. There are moments on Let's Ride that are quite enjoyable -- after all, Jordan has a knack for classy, seductive contemporary grooves -- but it never adds up to much of anything. Few of the songs make a lasting impression outside the title track, and the album essentially follows the same formula as his first two records, but with diminishing returns. There are enough good grooves to make it interesting to fans, but Let's Ride suggests that Jordan will have to learn a few new tricks soon if he wants to keep cruising.

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August 17, 2016

Montell Jordan - This Is How We Do It (1995)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 1995 Rush Associated Labels
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Montell Jordan was blessed with a strong set of producers for his debut album, This Is How We Do It. Working with material that is essentially sub-par, the production team turns in seamless performances, creating hooks and melodies from the deep bass and beats. Jordan's skills as a rapper are fine -- he does nothing particularly noteworthy, yet he certainly does not ruin the tracks. It was just the sort of competent R&B that hits the chart, and it did hit the charts, becoming a number one R&B album.

tags: montell jordan, this is how we do it, 1995, flac,

August 15, 2016

Battle Beast - Battle Beast (Limited Edition) (2013)

*Contains 1 bonus track. 14 tracks total.
Country: Finland
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2013 Nuclear Blast Records
Review by Chris for MetalReviews.com
It's not every day I get my hands on such an amazing slab of Power Metal goodness. So when that happens, the albums tends to make a special impact, and what an impact the band's second album makes, and almost instantly (more on that later). This is my first exposure from this band, and I will revisit their debut soon. From what I understand, this album features new female singer Noora Louhimo, in replacement of the Nitte Vänskä. The album starts with the best song on the album, and after 10-15 seconds you know from the guitar melody, that you will love this album, even before Noora starts singing. While the bombastic guitar powered intro to this song is ultra catchy its also recognizable, I couldn't say exactly if it reminds me of Sonata Arctica or Thunderstone, but I get the feeling I know these notes from another band, nevertheless after the intro the song starts rather calmly to arrive to the mind-blowing chorus, and the song name Let It Roar, makes perfect sense as Noora truly ROARS that chorus like a lion, in a voice that reminds me of AC/DC, U.D.O. (or Accept when Udo was still the front man) and W.A.S.P. all at once ! The screams/roars are executed to perfection (to tell you the truth on this song they are the best I've ever heard, period !) and still send shivers down my spine even if I must have listened to this song at least 100 times by now. Upon my first listen I wondered how the band could do ANYTHING after that song that would make any sort of impact. Sure Let it Roar is the best song of the album, heck it's the best song of 2013 so far, and an instant entry into my (virtual) list of all-times best song. But the thing is the album is full of surprises and even if no other song tops it, they are all of such high quality, masterfully crafted Power Metal with powerful riffing, great soloing, and absolutely amazing vocals that my initial fear quickly vanished in the course of my first listen. The production is crystal clear, powerful and definitely on par with the best of them. Vocals need to be underlined, the range of voices and abilities Noora brings to the table makes it that no other song feels the same, and there is little repetition throughout. One could say Battle Beast suffers the same formulaic similarities with bands like Powerwolf or Sabaton, but I find they are actually more able to tackle a wider variety of songs, even one that seems simple at first, then grows over time (and repeats), with a variety and mastery at every level (vocals, guitars, keys & rhythm section) that the album feels near perfect. My favorite songs, if I must choose (as it's not that easy), would be Let it Roar, Out of Control, Neuromancer (reminds me of Nightwish), Raven, Machine Revolution, Kingdom, Black Ninja & Rain Man. But it's important to note that the entire album is extremely solid, and never do I feel the need to hit the next button. Even the little instrumental track Golden Age is a great little interlude to calm things down in the middle of the album, only to take back things where they were left off... The bonus track Shutdown is also a great song, maybe not as good as those mentioned as my favorites, but better than some others on the album. I cannot underline how strong this power metal album (and band) is, there's no question in my mind that this will be on my surprise of the year list, and baring another bigger surprise, I see it on the top spot. The passion with which the bands plays and mixes all styles of heavy and power metal alike makes it a great all-rounded, highly addictive and catchy as well as perfectly finished (up to the excellent artwork) product ! If you like bands like Sonata Arctica, Nightwish, Sabaton or Powerwolf but also the Heavy metal classics like AC/DC & Accept, then you have to listen to Battle Beast (immediately I must add) : power metal at its best ! My favorite album this year (with Pretty Maids & Stratovarius) and a band which career I will definitely keep a close eye on. If Power Metal is your game, then Battle Beast is the name, period !

tags: battle beast, battle beast album, limited edition, 2013, flac,

Battle Beast - Steel (2012 Reissue)

*Reissued in 2012 by Nuclear Blast Records
Contains 1 bonus track. 12 tracks total.
Country: Finland
language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2011-2012 Nuclear Blast Records
Review by Cory for MetalReviews.com
The great sage Kermit the Frog once enlightened us with the timeless observation that “it’s not easy being green”. Likewise, many a metal band has slogged their way through mediocrity only to find that “it’s not easy being a metal band” or perhaps more appropriately “it’s not easy being a metal band and getting people to take you seriously”. Manowar are the golden standard for this, being the Kings of Metal to a legion of blindly devoted followers (myself included, at one point in time) and those guys that wear loincloths while lathered in sweat and uncomfortably close to each other for a photo shoot to the rest of the world. No genre can be more brutal in its honest critique of the world and the human condition than metal, but on the other side of that coin no genre (including country) open’s itself up for more verbal abuse at its often ridiculous nature than metal. It is a fine line to walk for sure, and in the case of Battle Beast’s debut album Steel both feet are firmly planted over the line into eye rolling territory. Blending a traditional metal sound with power metal leanings, and naturally incorporating a female vocalist in the mix, Battle Beast brings the cheese by the truckload. Songs like Enter the Metal World, Armageddon Clan, and Justice and Metal pretty much beat you over the head with just how metal they are (usually by screaming the word metal over and over), sometimes to decent effect but more often than not eliciting a strong sense of been here and done that before. There is a lot of attitude on this album, but unfortunately most of it comes across as insincere and the result is a pretty shallow album that is good for a few spins, then easily forgotten. On the music side of the house, the playing is competent though nothing to get out of your chair for. There are pretty cool leads scattered throughout, but this is often accompanied lyrics that cannot be played in public. The title track is a prime example of this, with the lyric “shake the world with metal, shake the world with steel” being cringe worthy. Granted there are other bands that I listen to that aren’t exactly poets by comparison, but at least with them it comes across with conviction. Also I am all for kicking someone’ ass with metal, but my idea of doing this is through a monstrous riff and a wall of sound. On the vocal side of the house, Nitte Valo brings the effort, but not always the execution. There are times, such as on Die-Hard Warrior, that she absolutely nails the attitude and mid-range, but on songs like Enter the Metal World she is uneven, especially when she shoots for those hardcore screams. Backing vocals are also a mixed bag, at times serving their purpose well and other times sounding exactly Lordi (the irritating Lordi, not the Gwar wannabe funny Lordi). Metal in the vein of Dream Evil (of the Book of Heavy Metal variety), Battle Beast’s Steel is worth a listen for those that want to shout and scream their devotion to all things metal from the roof tops, and that crowd certainly exists. For the rest of us though, this is an album easily overlooked in favor of more substantial fair. Steel is metal through and through, but I prefer my metal in the form of iron, not aluminum.

tags: battle beast, steel, steel album, 2011, 2012, flac,

August 14, 2016

Steel Panther - All You Can Eat (2014)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Glam Metal
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© 2014 Open E. Music
AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney
While Steel Panther made a career for themselves as a living, breathing parody of the legendary debauchery and excess of bands like Mötley Crüe, like hair metal itself, the joke has run its course. On All You Can Eat, the fourth outing from the comedy rock quartet, the band continues to dig deep into its musical bag of tricks, delivering a spot-on homage to the grime and glam of Los Angeles' storied metal scene. Unlike those bands, who at least barely pretended to hide their lyrical sleaze in plain sight, with only the thinnest veneer of double entendre in place to assuage the fears of nervous standards and practices departments, Steel Panther don't even bother to go that far. Sure, the point of the band isn't subtlety, but at this point Steel Panther's escalation of the "wearing makeup and swearing over guitar riffs" joke has gone from ironic pastiche to just plain offensive. And it's easy to write off songs like "Bukkake Tears" and "You're Beautiful When You Don't Talk" as jokes, but at this point those jokes are such low-hanging fruit that they've made the transition from shocking to gross. Musically, Steel Panther still shred pretty hard, but it seems that their well of hot riffs is a lot deeper than their well of comedy. In the end, All You Can Eat is an album that owes as much to Andrew Dice Clay as it does to Skid Row and Warrant, making it more a reminder of a less enlightened era than a reminder of the fun times that might've been had there.

August 09, 2016

Scorpions - Lonesome Crow (1972)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1972-1989 Rampage Records
AllMusic Review by Barry Weber
Something of an anomaly for the Scorpions, Lonesome Crow focuses on deep, dark melodies that sound like a bad combination of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones. Although Michael Schenker provides some strong guitar melodies, the album fails to capture any real interest. Klaus Meine's voice, which usually has a tenor pitch, is flat and dull. Neither harmonic nor interesting, Lonesome Crow is one of the Scorpions' weaker releases.

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Pink Floyd - Atom Heart Mother (1970)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Progressive Rock
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© 1970-1988 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Appearing after the sprawling, unfocused double-album set Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother may boast more focus, even a concept, yet that doesn't mean it's more accessible. If anything, this is the most impenetrable album Pink Floyd released while on Harvest, which also makes it one of the most interesting of the era. Still, it may be an acquired taste even for fans, especially since it kicks off with a side-long, 23-minute extended orchestral piece that may not seem to head anywhere, but is often intriguing, more in what it suggests than what it achieves. Then, on the second side, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, and Rick Wright have a song apiece, winding up with the group composition "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" wrapping it up. Of these, Waters begins developing the voice that made him the group's lead songwriter during their classic era with "If," while Wright has an appealingly mannered, very English psychedelic fantasia on "Summer 68," and Gilmour's "Fat Old Sun" meanders quietly before ending with a guitar workout that leaves no impression. "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast," the 12-minute opus that ends the album, does the same thing, floating for several minutes before ending on a drawn-out jam that finally gets the piece moving. So, there are interesting moments scattered throughout the record, and the work that initially seems so impenetrable winds up being Atom Heart Mother's strongest moment. That it lasts an entire side illustrates that Pink Floyd was getting better with the larger picture instead of the details, since the second side just winds up falling off the tracks, no matter how many good moments there are. This lack of focus means Atom Heart Mother will largely be for cultists, but its unevenness means there's also a lot to cherish here.

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Pink Floyd - The Dark Side of The Moon (1973) ☠

*Original first pressing on CD.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© © 1973-1985 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
By condensing the sonic explorations of Meddle to actual songs and adding a lush, immaculate production to their trippiest instrumental sections, Pink Floyd inadvertently designed their commercial breakthrough with Dark Side of the Moon. The primary revelation of Dark Side of the Moon is what a little focus does for the band. Roger Waters wrote a series of songs about mundane, everyday details which aren't that impressive by themselves, but when given the sonic backdrop of Floyd's slow, atmospheric soundscapes and carefully placed sound effects, they achieve an emotional resonance. But what gives the album true power is the subtly textured music, which evolves from ponderous, neo-psychedelic art rock to jazz fusion and blues-rock before turning back to psychedelia. It's dense with detail, but leisurely paced, creating its own dark, haunting world. Pink Floyd may have better albums than Dark Side of the Moon, but no other record defines them quite as well as this one.

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August 07, 2016

Judas Priest - Priest... Live! (1987)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1987 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Judas Priest's first live album, Unleashed in the East, was a powerhouse, but Priest...Live! is a sad, lackluster document of an aging heavy metal band desperately trying to hold onto its glory days. No matter how hard it tried, the group could not hide the fact that its power was declining rapidly.

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August 06, 2016

Accept - Eat The Heat (1989)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1989 RCA Records
AllMusic Review by Vincent Jeffries
It's hard to consider a disc featuring the vocals of anybody other than Udo Dirkschneider an actual Accept record. Released after the legendary frontman's departure from Germany's second greatest '80s metal outfit, Eat the Heat proves Dirkschneider's personification of the band. After picking up Minneapolis metal-club veteran David Reece, Wolf Hoffman and the rest of Accept decided to modify their sound and songwriting enough to fit the replacement singer's more commercial metal style. Filling in for a legend, especially one as unique as Reece's predecessor, is a risky business, and the American wailer doesn't do much to help his cause as he never injects a personality of his own into this 1989 Epic release. While the substitute's vocal abilities are considerable, it's hard to differentiate his delivery from that of many singers of his era fronting secondary metal outfits. Making matters worse, the songwriting and production on Eat the Heat often sound stale when compared to the consistently raw yet musically tight delivery of the group's best work. To understand and admire Accept's quirky appeal is to appreciate the insane rantings of Dirkshneider and the chemistry of his chaos offset against the band's particular musical order.

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Accept - Predator (1996)

Country: Germany
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1996 RCA Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Anderson
Concluding a stint of late-'90s studio recordings that steadily declined in quality, Predator is a bit of a swan song for Accept, and a rather lightweight one at that. Ex-Damn Yankees drummer Michael Cartellone joins a band lineup that thankfully includes vocalist Udo Dirkschneider and bandleader/guitarist Wolf Hoffmann, the key members responsible for Accept's unique Teutonic metal bite. On Predator, however, that bite is mostly toothless. With just the slightest exceptions (specifically, "Crucified" and "Making Me Scream"), this Michael Wagener-produced disc sounds spiritless and redundant. Choruses are shouted gang-vocal style over and over again in an incessant attempt at anthemic metal, but the tactic only stiffens the already motionless music. There's no momentum and no magic on Predator, a lifeless and unfortunate offering from one of metal's finest outfits.

Faith Evans - Faithfully (2001) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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☠ Selected by Lass
© 2001 Bad Boy Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Given Faith Evans' somewhat spotty track record and Puff Daddy/P. Diddy's slippage since his name change, it might have made some sense to greet Evans' third album, Faithfully, with a bit of skepticism. As it turns out, such doubts were unwarranted, since this is her grittiest, funkiest, best record to date. There are so many collaborators on each track and so many producers -- usually around five songwriters for each track (but if a song is sampled, as many as 14 writers are credited) -- that it seems a minor miracle that it holds together at all, but Faithfully gels better than any previous Faith Evans record, in large part because so much of it is devoted to hard-edged, funky dance numbers, whether it's hip-hop-influenced cuts like "Alone in This World" or the wonderful neo-disco "Back to Love." This switch from her previous album, which emphasized ballads and mid-tempo grooves, gives the album more character, since the dance numbers mix well with the sultrier numbers and they both work equally well. If the album is hurt by anything, it's its length -- like most modern hip-hop-related albums, it runs too long -- but it is rich with vibrant songs, lively production, and Evans' best singing to date on what ultimately is not just her best album, but another excellent female urban R&B album in a year overflowing with them.

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Faith Evans - The First Lady (2005)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 2005 Capitol Records
Reviewed by Allmusic.com
The first Faith Evans album without the Bad Boy logo on the sleeve and the word "faith" in the title, The First Lady thankfully offers nothing else in the way of a shake-up. The wait between 2001's Faithfully and this 2005 release was easily the longest in Evans' career. If there was any creative block during the time away, it doesn't show. In fact, The First Lady proves that she only gets better with time, as she goes through more ups and downs and continues to absorb her inspirations. At less than an hour in running time, it's her shortest album to date, which also helps make it her tightest. Where her first three albums are too lengthy, often bogged down with some lukewarm ballads, The First Lady is terrifically balanced in its distribution of club tracks, midtempo grooves, and slow jams -- with a knowing, timely homage to the late Lyn Collins thrown effectively into the mix -- and its tactful sequencing should give a lot of skip and delete buttons a break. Whatever dip in quality that transpires during the latter half of the album has more to do with the first half's excellence and numerous dimensions, including the punchy Neptunes production "Goin' Out," the sparkling "I Don't Need It," the uplifting "Again" (a good match with Fantasia's similarly affirming "Baby Mama"), and "Stop n Go" -- a gorgeous ballad with a devastating chorus. Evans, as always, does the bulk of the songwriting and some of the production with some key help. Jermaine Dupri, Chucky Thompson, Mario Winans, and the ubiquitous Bryan-Michael Cox also assist, but Carvin "Ransum" Haggins and Ivan "Orthodox" Barias deserve a lot of credit for their work on half of the songs. The First Lady is as well-rounded as an R&B album gets, regardless of the age it's part of. Like Teedra Moses' neglected Complex Simplicity, it smartly incorporates throwback aspects into state-of-the-art pop-soul.

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August 04, 2016

Faith Evans - Faith (1995)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 1995 Bad Boy Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Faith Evans had written songs for a variety of new jack and hip-hop artists (including Mary J. Blige, Al B. Sure!, Pebbles, and Christopher Williams) before releasing her first album, Faith. The record proves that she is as powerful in the spotlight as she is behind the scenes. Evans builds on a basic, hip-hop-influenced funk, alternating between simmering grooves and sultry ballads. Faith does have a couple of dull spots, but the album is a first-class debut.

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August 02, 2016

Accept - Restless & Wild (1982)

*Original first CD pressing. Released in 1995.

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1982-1995 Portrait Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Accept's creative breakthrough, 1983's Restless and Wild, begins with one of the most unexpected, surprising, and hilarious mock intros ever recorded. Untold thousands no doubt furrowed their brows in confusion at the perky German folk song emanating from their speakers, only to be rudely interrupted by a scratching needle and Udo Dirkschneider's incomparable shriek, as the band launch themselves into the stunning violence of "Fast as a Shark." Not just a thrilling, light-speed juggernaut, the song was probably the last thrash metal prototype waxed in the pre-thrash era (officially inaugurated by Metallica's Kill 'Em All a few months later). Though nowhere near as frenetic, the title track and "Ahead of the Pack" are just as fierce, and despite a sudden stumble with the mediocre "Shake Your Heads" (an overtly cheesy, Judas Priest-style metal anthem, and the album's only stinker), the dramatic "Neon Nights" ends side one on the upswing once again. As for the album's second half, it's pretty much beyond reproach. Introduced by the solid "Get Ready" (another nod to Priest with its "Living After Midnight"-inspired drum intro), it builds from strength to strength with increasingly mature and melodic (though lyrically obscure) tracks such as "Flash Rockin' Man," "Don't Go Stealing My Soul Away," and the colossal "Princess of the Dawn." The latter closes the album as it began, in unexpected fashion, when its extended outro is abruptly interrupted mid-verse. The bottom line here is that this, like its successor Balls to the Wall, is an essential heavy metal album, and any fan worth his salt should own them both. But for the sake of first-time visitors, Restless and Wild is the slightly grittier, less melodic of the two. Whichever you chose, you can only win.

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Accept - Breaker (1981)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1981-1992 Brain
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
In retrospect, Accept's combination of taught, crunching guitar riffs and the uniquely screeching vocals of singer Udo Dirkschneider has become one of the most instantly recognizable sonic identities in all of hard rock and metal. And after finding the sound they'd been searching for with the title track of their previous album I'm a Rebel, the German quintet made sure to quickly patent it as their own on 1982's Breaker. Though it remains a must-have for die-hard fans only, this was where the band truly hit their stride, not to mention launched their career. After crashing into action with the high-energy bursts of "Starlight" and the title track, the band segues into the more controlled and refined "Run if You Can." Though its main riff quotes Judas Priest rather blatantly (one of Accept's few bad habits in their early years), the song would serve as a blueprint for future triumphs by taming their fierce aggression with a little more melody and a great chorus. Also on hand is the irrepressible classic "Son of a Bitch" (partly sung in German), a competent ballad in "Can't Stand the Night," and a couple of career oddities in the shape of "Midnight Highway" (featuring chorused vocals and Boston-esque harmony guitars) and the totally uncharacteristic "Breaking Up Again," an acoustic ballad sung by bassist Peter Baltes.

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Saxon - Power & The Glory (1983)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1983-1989 EMI Records Ltd.
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
After enjoying their first brief hiatus from the endless tour/record/tour/record grind, the members of Saxon -- including then-new drummer Nigel Glockler -- reconvened in late 1982 to begin working on their fifth studio album, Power & the Glory. Notably, the bums from Barnsley were give the luxury of recording in America this time by their French indie label, Carrere, but all they got out of Atlanta, Georgia's Axis Sound Studio and first-time producer Jeff Glixman was an album that sounds as though it was recorded in a tin can, albeit a very, very large tin can. Whereas the group's signature earlier albums, Wheels of Steel, Strong Arm of the Law, and Denim and Leather, had all sounded big, in-your-face, and gritty, Power & the Glory was awash with reverb that vanished into the ether just as soon as the cacophonous echoing subsided. The material itself was also at fault, however, and despite a few sparks generated by "Redline," "Warrior," and the proto-thrashing "This Town Rocks," only the anthemic title track ultimately showed enough staying power (and, errr, glory) to earn a frequent slot in Saxon's live repertoire. Beyond that, fans were given a couple of fillers ("Watching the Sky," "Midas Touch"), a merely decent quasi-ballad in "Nightmare," and a synth-enhanced prog-style epic named "The Eagle Has Landed" (named after their then-recent live album), which was, well, interesting. Finally, Power & the Glory's lyrics also marked a slight shift toward "dungeons and dragons" themes (in emulation of the then-recently U.S.-breaking Iron Maiden, perhaps?) that would continue into Saxon's next uneven opus, Crusader, to the ambivalence of their fans. But, this being heavy metal, lyrics are rarely deemed as important as the music, and it was in this regard that Power & the Glory essentially falls short of expectations.

Blondie - AutoAmerican (1980)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: New Wave
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© 1980-1987 Chrysalis Records
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
The basic Blondie sextet was augmented, or replaced, by numerous session musicians (including lots of uncredited horn and string players) for the group's fifth album, Autoamerican, on which they continued to expand their stylistic range, with greater success, at least on certain tracks, than they had on Eat to the Beat. A cover of Jamaican group the Paragons' "The Tide Is High," released in advance of the album, became a gold-selling number one single, as did the rap pastiche "Rapture," but, despite their presence, the album stalled in the lower half of the Top Ten and spent fewer weeks in the charts than either of its predecessors. One reason for that, admittedly, was that Chrysalis Records pulled promotion of the disc in favor of pushing lead singer Debbie Harry's debut solo album, KooKoo, not even bothering to release a third single after scoring two chart-topping hits. But then, it's hard to imagine what that third single could have been on an album that leads off with a pretentious string-filled instrumental ("Europa"), and also finds Harry crooning ersatz '20s pop on "Here's Looking at You" and tackling Broadway show music in a cover of "Follow Me" from Camelot. Though more characteristic, the rest of the tracks are weak compositions indifferently executed. Thus Autoamerican was memorable only for its hits, which would be better heard when placed on a hits compilation.

tags: blondie, auto american, autoamerican, 1980, flac,

Saxon - Saxon (1999 Remastered Edition)

*Reissued in 1999 by EMI Records
Contains remastered audio and 8 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal, Hard Rock
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© 1979-1999 EMI Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Saxon's humble debut album was the quiet before the storm: a dress rehearsal, if you will, for the unqualified triumphs that lay just over the horizon for both the band and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in general. Saxon were simultaneously inexperienced (when it came to the recording studio) and long in the tooth (older than most NWOBHM peers, they'd been performing in clubs for nearly a decade), and here they came to grips, not only with their material, but also with the fact that their independent record company, Carrere, didn't really know how to capture a heavy metal sound on tape. As a result, this eponymous LP only hints at Saxon's true personality, power, and songwriting potential, with early live favorites like "Judgement Day," "Militia Guard," and "Stallions of the Highway" (the first of many biker anthems) subdued by a punchless production. Other tracks suggested some lingering doubts as to musical direction, either on the band's or producers' part, because the opening "Rainbow Theme"/"Frozen Rainbow" tandem showed distinctive progressive rock traits, while "Big Teaser" and "Still Fit to Boogie" appeared to owe their lighter glam rock nuances to T. Rex. Nevertheless, the LP helped to put Saxon on the map, and their workaholic ways would quickly pay big dividends, once they learned to harness their powerful on-stage sound during their next visit to the studio while recording 1980's seminal sophomore album, Wheels of Steel.

tags: saxon, saxon album, 1979, 1999, remaster, flac,

U2 - Zooropa (1993)

Country: Ireland
Language: English
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1993 Island Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
U2 planned to record a new EP before launching the European leg of their ambitious Zoo TV tour in 1993, but the EP quickly turned into the full-length album Zooropa. Picking up where Achtung Baby left off, Zooropa delves heavily into U2's newfound affection for experimental music and dance clubs. While the title track marries those inclinations to the anthems of The Joshua Tree, most of the record is far more daring than its predecessor. While that occasionally means it's unfocused and meandering, it also results in a number of wonderful moments, like the quiet menace of "Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car," and the space-age German disco of "Lemon," the Edge's droning mantra "Numb," and the gentle, heartbroken "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)," one of U2's very best love songs. As the album winds to a close, it drifts off track, yet the best moments of Zooropa rank among U2's most inspired and rewarding music.

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