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 23, 2016

Jay-Z - Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life (1998)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
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© 1998 Roc-A-Fella Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Coming on the heels of two strong records that revealed the extent of Jay-Z's talents, Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life (it may be titled Vol. 2, but it's his third album, arguably his fourth if you count the Streets Is Watching soundtrack) is a little bit of a relative disappointment. Jay-Z had established himself as a savvy, street-smart rapper on those two records, but with Hard Knock Life he decides to shoot for crossover territory, for better and for worse. At his best, he shows no fear -- witness how the title track shamelessly works a Broadway showstopper from Annie into a raging ghetto cry, yet keeps it smooth enough for radio. It's a stunning single, but unfortunately, it promises more than the rest of the album can deliver. Jay-Z remains a first-rate lyricist and MC, but too often his subjects are tired, especially since he winds up with no new revelations. Unfortunately, the same could be said for his music. For every "Hard Knock Life," there are a couple of standard post-gangsta jams that don't catch hold -- and that's really too bad, because the best moments (including several tracks produced by such stars as Timbaland, Kid Capri, and Jermaine Dupri) are state-of-the-art, R&B-inflected mainstream hip-hop. And that's the problem -- before, Jay-Z wasn't trying to play by the rules of the mainstream, but here he's trying to co-opt them. At times he does, but the times that fall flat have less strength or integrity than their predecessors, and that's what makes the entire record not quite as effective, despite its numerous high points. [Shortly after its initial release, Hard Knock Life was reissued with a pair of bonus tracks: "It's Alright," pulled from the Streets Is Watching soundtrack, and "Money Ain't a Thang," a catchy collabo single from Jermaine Dupri's Life in 1472 album.]

tags: jay z, jay-z, vol 2 hard knock life, 1998, flac,

Jay-Z - In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
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© 1997 Roc-A-Fella Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
After the death of friend and compatriot the Notorious B.I.G. in early 1997, Jay-Z made his claim for the title of best rapper on the East Coast (or anywhere) with his sophomore shot, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. Though the productions are just a bit flashier and more commercial than on his debut, Jay-Z remained the tough street rapper, and even improved a bit on his flow, already one of the best in the world of hip-hop. Still showing his roots in the Marcy projects (he's surrounded by a group of kids in a picture on the back cover), Jay-Z struts the line between project poet and up-and-coming player, and manages to have it both ways. He slings some of the most cutting rhymes heard in hip-hop, brushing off a legion of rappers riding his coattails on "Imaginary Player." For "Streets Is Watching," high-tension background strings and vocal samples from the gangster film Sleeper emphasize the pitfalls of a rapper everyone's gunning for ("If I shoot you, I'm brainless/But if you shoot me, then you famous"). The song leads right into "Friend or Foe '98," the sequel to a track from Reasonable Doubt that only increases the sense of paranoia. But Jay-Z plays the ghetto celebrity equally well, and continues his slick, Cristal-sipping image with "I Know What Girls Like" (featuring Puff Daddy and Lil' Kim), "(Always Be My) Sunshine" (featuring Babyface and Foxy Brown), and "Lucky Me." Puff Daddy's Bad Boy stable is responsible for almost half the productions, and though they often verge far into pop territory, Jay-Z usually rescues them from a complete crossover. (Ironically, the most commercial production is actually from Teddy Riley on "The City Is Mine," with an unfortunate interpolation of Glenn Frey's "You Belong to the City.") Having one of the toughest producers around (Premier) as well as one of the slickest (Puff Daddy) sometimes creates a disconnect between who Jay-Z really is and who he wants to become, but he balances both personas with the best rapping heard in the rap game since the deaths of 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G.

tags: jay z, jay-z, in my life time vol 1, 1997, flac,

August 21, 2016

Da Brat - Unrestricted (2000)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
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© 2000 Columbia/So So Def
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Poising herself halfway between knowing sexual object and vengeful love goddess, Da Brat rages through her third album, constructing wonderfully dense raps and delivering them with skill and panache. There is a bit more R&B on Unrestricted than Da Brat fans will expect, but given the rapper's uncompromising stance, it never feels like a sellout. Check her hometown salute "Chi-Town" and "Pink Lemonade," and her double team (with R&B singer Kelly Price) on the spurned-love story "Runnin' Out of Time." Producer Jermaine Dupri spreads the synthesizer strings a bit too thick but shows his beats are among the best of the major super-producers on the block.

tags: da brat, unrestricted, 2000, flac,

August 20, 2016

7 Notas 7 Colores - Hecho, Es Simple (1997)

Country: Spain
Genre: Hip-Hop
Language: Spanish
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© 1997 La Madre
AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson
Hip-hop might have originated in the U.S., but it's traveled around the world since then, becoming the world music. Spain hasn't been left out of the picture, as 7 Notas 7 Colores illustrates. Its take is individual, sonically very different to what's happening in America, and more stripped down and hardcore -- perhaps having more in common with the English style called spoken word. The closest the band comes to American hip-hop, in fact, is the funky "La Medicina," which is still fairly minimal. Obviously, understanding Spanish helps when listening to this band, but, at the same time, it can be appreciated for the particular flow and style without speaking the language. And there's definitely something interesting going on here: a fairly hardcore style that manages to range from the confrontational to the laid-back. The remix of "Buah!" appended as the last track manages to add to the original track with orchestral stabs rather than any radical reworking, thus keeping the emphasis firmly on the words, just where it should be. If you're tired of the predictability of American hip-hop (not to mention its other failings), check out what's happening overseas. You'll be pleased by the creativity, and 7 Notas 7 Colores might well end up on your shopping list.

Da Brat - Anuthatantrum (1996)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1996 So So Def
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Da Brat's second album, Anuthatantrum, is a slight improvement over her debut, even if it lacks an instantly obvious single on the order of "Funkdafied." Her persona is pretty much the same (she doesn't take crap and likes to swear and smoke pot), and so is her flow. The main difference is that this time around, her rhymes are much more her own, without all the old-school quotes and obvious Snoop Dogg bites that sometimes pulled the focus away from her strengths on Funkdafied. Similarly, Jermaine Dupri's production is less indebted to Dr. Dre's G-funk sound, instead following the early-'80s urban funk direction he also hinted at on the debut. The two excellent singles, "Sittin' on Top of the World" and "Ghetto Love," sample Rick James and El Debarge, respectively, and there are some more laid-back moments with live keyboards and acoustic guitar work. (The "Stayin' Alive" cop on "Keepin' It Live" is far less inspired, however.) Of course, there's another ode to marijuana on "Let's All Get High," which features special guest Krayzie Bone; there are also a few songs where da Brat prides herself on being more spoiled than ever, thanks to her success. It's another brief album, but Anuthatantrum does show da Brat making subtle progress, and Dupri's production is inviting once again.

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Da Brat - Funkdafied (1994)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: G-Funk
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© 1994 So So Def
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
The first album by a female rapper ever to sell one million copies, Funkdafied is a promising debut effort that finds da Brat still solidifying her style. She's a very good rapper without a strong identity of her own yet, and despite her own obvious intensity, she seems infatuated with the offhanded drawl of Snoop Doggy Dogg on much of the album. She's not just influenced by him, but cops recognizable inflections, phrasing, and vocal riffs, and producer Jermaine Dupri sometimes supports her with Dr. Dre-style G-funk tracks, most obviously on the single "Fa All Y'All." But even at its most derivative, Funkdafied has spirit. Repeatedly announcing, "I ain't no muthaf*ckin' joke," da Brat paints herself as a cussin', weed-smokin' badass bitch who can hang with the boys and beat them at their own game. Cuts like "Da Shit Ya Can't Fuc Wit," "Fire It Up," and "Give It 2 You" effectively establish her tough-talking persona, and the smash title cut is a breezy, laid-back party jam. On quite a few tracks, da Brat augments her Snoop fixation by referencing lines from '80s classics, almost as though she feels compelled to prove she knows her history; she can also rely a little too heavily on her catch phrase, "Brat-tat-tat-tat." But even if she isn't quite there yet, da Brat knows who she wants to be, and she has the talent and production to make the journey entertaining.

tags: da brat, funkdafied, 1994, flac,

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,

Various Artists - Clockers (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (1995)


Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop, R&B
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© 1995 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The soundtrack to Spike Lee's adaptation of Richard Price's drug-dealer/murder drama Clockers is alive with first-rank hip-hop and soul artists, accurately reflecting the urban sounds of 1995. From the smooth soul of Seal, Des'ree, and Chaka Khan, through the hip-hop/jazz fusions of Buckshot LeFonque, to the intense Crooklyn Dodgers (Jeru The Damaja, Chubb Rock, O.C., and DJ Premier), the Clockers soundtrack offers a wide variety of style. Nothing on the soundtrack became a hit, but that doesn't mean the album isn't worthwhile. More than most soundtracks, it captures both the spirit of the movie while standing as its own, entirely listenable, entity.

tags: various artists, clockers, original motion picture soundtrack, clockers soundtrack, ost, 1995, 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.

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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

GP Wu - Don't Go Against The Grain (1997)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1997 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by David M. Childers
Yet another offshoot of the wildly successful Wu-Tang Clan, the four members of GP Wu (Rubberbands, June Luva, Down Low Recka, and Pop the Brown Hornet) do a good job of replicating the Wu-Tang sound, but fail to live up to the somewhat lofty standards the rap conglomerate has established. Don't Go Against the Grain is a very consistent effort, overflowing with the style that is so distinct to hardcore East Coast rap. Consistency, however, is not necessarily genius. While the album is not completely forgettable, it fails to be particularly memorable either.

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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.

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August 15, 2016

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

Country: Finland
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 !

Battle Beast - Steel (2012 Reissue)

Country: Finland
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.

The Game - The Documentary (2005) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2005 G-Unit/Aftermath/Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Once the Game surfaced as a force in hip-hop, a big deal was made of his dance with death. Apparently he was shot five times. If you're scoring at home, that's four times less than label mate and executive producer 50 Cent. After the altercation that nearly took his life, the Game took a crash course in hip-hop and studied up on the master MCs from both coasts. Within a year of rapping for the first time, Dr. Dre took notice and was compelled to offer an Aftermath contract. The Game is also from Compton, just like his mentor, so guess where the allegiances fall? An N.W.A medallion hangs from his neck, an N.W.A logo is inked across his chest, and an image of the late Eazy-E is on his right forearm. If none of this makes it clear enough, the Game name drops beloved heroes -- including just about everyone ever connected to N.W.A, save for CPO -- with great frequency. The stage name, coined by his mother while he was an athletic youngster, is entirely fitting: verses are constructed with album titles, label heads are mentioned as if scholarly attention is paid to the industry's inner workings. And yet, this is hardly another Guerilla Black, an MC lacking originality. The Game's scope is obviously much wider, and he's no mimic; though he's still finding his feet as a lyricist, isn't as distinct vocally as 50 or Lloyd Banks, and nearly allows the gimmicks to overwhelm the skills, The Documentary is an excellent debut that also hints at a lot of potential. Dr. Dre and an all-star cast of fellow producers are in top form, Just Blaze, Timbaland, Kanye West, and Hi-Tek included, and none of the features steal any thunder from the star. The most remarkable aspect of the Game is how he can be such a blatant product of gangsta rap (okay, let's say fanboy) and leave a mark so fast. But, as he says in "Dreams," "Anything is possible if 50 f*cked Vivica."

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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 12, 2016

Redman - Dare Iz a Darkside (1994)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop

© 1994 Def Jam Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
Redman may have become a household name among the rap community by the end of the '90s, but there was a time when he garnered little more than a cult following. Why? Well, Dare Iz a Darkside illustrates this better than any of his other '90s albums -- nowhere else has Redman ever been this odd, to be quite frank. It's fairly evident here that he'd been listening to his George Clinton records and that he wasn't fronting when he alluded to "A Million and 1 Buddah Spots" that he'd visited. In fact, this album often divides his fans. Many admire it for its eccentricities, while others deride it for being quite simply too inaccessible. It's almost as if Redman is trying to puzzle listeners on Dare Iz a Darkside with his continually morphing persona. In fact, there's actually little questioning his motives -- it's a matter of fact that Redman's trying to be as crazy as he can without alienating too many of those who first knew him for his affiliation with EPMD. And while that affiliation does aid this album, since Erick Sermon plays a large role in production, it's not quite enough. If this album has one unforgivable flaw besides the debatable quirks in Redman's persona, it's the production. Sermon isn't up to his usual standards here, unfortunately, and the album could really use some of his trademark funk. But the reason most fans either feel devotion or disdain for this album isn't the beats, but rather Redman's antics. If you appreciate his wacky sense of insane humor, this album is a gold mine. If you're more into his latter-day Method Man-style rhymes, then this album probably isn't one you want to bother with. After all, though Redman became a household name by the end of the '90s, it surely wasn't because of albums like this.

tags: redman, dare iz a darkside, 1994, flac,

Myalansky & Joe Mafia: Wu-Syndicate (1999)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop

© 1999 Wu-Tang Records
AllMusic Review by Keith Farley
Wu-Syndicate is a Wu-Tang-related album minus the production talents of main man RZA (credited here as executive producer). Produced by newcomers DJ Devastator, Tata, Dred, and Mathematics, Wu-Syndicate is far from the worst Wu-Tang cash-in, in part because the productions occasionally transcend the trademarked Wu sound. While rappers Myalansky and Joe Mafia are cartoonish gangsters closer in concept to the 1930s than the gangsta '90s (similar to No Limit's Gambino Family), tracks like "Pointin' Fingers," "Ghetto Syringe," and "Muzzle Toe" are well-produced and even superior to several tracks from the latest "real" Wu-Tang Clan album, Forever.

Jamal - Last Chance, No Breaks (1995)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop

© 1995 Rowdy Records
AllMusic Review by M.F. DiBella
Having distanced himself from the unprofitable venture that was his membership in the teen rap group Illegal, Jamal put his career in the capable hands of rap veteran and super-producer Erick Sermon. As the youngest member of the Def Squad (Keith Murray, Redman), Jamal was able to explore and enrich his natural lyrical gift with the benefit of E-Double's uncanny ear for funky beats. Last Chance showcases the fiery young MC's tremendous gift of gab and surprisingly mature musical presence. The plethora of funkdafied beats laid down by Sermon, Redman, Rockwilder, and Easy Mo Bee is fertile ground for the young phenom's assertive vocal capacity. The slow undulating bass of "Fades 'Em All" complements the brash MC's attacking style while the raw and rowdy "Unfukwittable" is just pure hormonal rage. A funk-filled feast of an album that also features a track from the lord of the funk, George Clinton.

tags: jamal, last chance no breaks, 1995, flac,

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.

tags: scorpions, lonesome crow, 1972, flac,

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.

tags: pink floyd, atom heart mother, 1970, flac,

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.

tags: pink floyd, the dark side of the moon, darkside, 1973, flac,