September 27, 2016

TLC - 20 (2013)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 2013 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
The sticker on the front of TLC 20 proclaims "Music inspired by VH1's film CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story," which is neither actual nor factual. With the exception of one new song, "Meant to Be" -- a pleasant ballad co-written by Ne-Yo -- these songs were released during the early '90s through the early 2000s, long before the film was conceived. Keke Palmer, who portrayed Chilli, wasn't born until over a year after the release of Ooooooohhh...On the TLC Tip. Regardless, this set is a decent introduction to one of the biggest pop groups of the '90s. Released a week ahead of the film's premiere, it features all nine of the group's Hot 100 Top Ten singles, from 1992's "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg" through 1999's "Unpretty," along with a handful of relatively minor hits, album cuts, and the new song. It could have gone deeper -- as deep as the 19-track Now & Forever: The Hits (2003), at least. There's much more to enjoy beyond what's here. The group made three of the best '90s pop-R&B albums, and 2002's 3D was no embarrassment.

tags: tlc, 20, 20 album, 2013, flac,

September 22, 2016

Selena - Dreaming of You (1995)

Country: U.S.A
Language: English, Spanish (Español)
Genre: Tejano, R&B, Pop Cumbia
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© 1995 EMI Latin
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Most of America first learned of Selena because of her tragic murder; accordingly, the posthumous Dreaming of You was the first record they ever heard. While it isn't her best -- Amor Prohibido is a more consistent release -- it was an effective introduction, and showed why she was so beloved among Tejano fans. The English tracks on the album are no different than her Spanish songs. Selena was essentially a singer much like her idol Madonna. She was able to sing ballads and dance-pop convincingly. Dreaming of You would have been a stronger album if she had lived, but it still stands as a powerful -- and touching -- testament to her talents.

tags: selena, dreaming of you, 1995, flac,

Selena - Anthology: A 30 Song Retrospective (1998)

 3 disc compilation released in 1998.

Country: U.S.A
Language: Spanish, English
Genre: Tejano, Pop, Mariachi
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             *****
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© 1998 EMI Latin
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Compiled by her father, Abraham Quintanilla, Anthology is a three-disc/three-cassette box set that provides a comprehensive overview of Selena's tragically brief career. The set is divided into three parts: a disc of mariachi, a disc of cumbia, and a disc of pop recordings, many of which are in English. There are certain hits missing -- there's no "Dreaming of You," oddly enough -- but it's the first compilation to give a good sense of the range of her talents.
Tejano, Pop, Mariachi

tags: selena, anthology, a 30 song retrospective, 1998, flac,

September 20, 2016

Dru Hill - Dru World Order (2002)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 2002 Def Soul
AllMusic Review by John Bush
After Sisqó's solo debut pushed two big hits ("Thong Song," "Incomplete") to the top of the charts, it appeared Dru Hill was going to have to recruit a replacement for its best-known name. When the group finally returned in 2002, though, it not only welcomed Sisqó back to the fold but added a member (Skola) to make the group a quintet. The third album, Dru World Order, proves the group possesses as much talent as any of their contemporaries in the R&B world. First of all, it's largely self-contained; Nokio produced over half the album, and much of the songwriting was kept in-house as well. And with the gospel fervor of new addition Skola, Dru Hill sounds stronger and smoother than it has in the past. The single "I Should Be..." is solid, if a little in the line of standard material for them, but "On Me" (featuring N.O.R.E.) and "Old Love" are two of the most inspired songs they've ever recorded. The songwriting tends to similar themes, as do the songs themselves, but having the most polished harmonies on the R&B block makes Dru Hill capable of smoothing over any of the rough spots on Dru World Order.

tags: dru hill, dru world order, 2002, flac,

U2 - War (1983)

Country: Ireland
Language: English
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1983 Island Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Opening with the ominous, fiery protest of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," War immediately announces itself as U2's most focused and hardest-rocking album to date. Blowing away the fuzzy, sonic indulgences of October with propulsive, martial rhythms and shards of guitar, War bristles with anger, despair, and above all, passion. Previously, Bono's attempts at messages came across as grandstanding, but his vision becomes remarkably clear on this record, as his anthems ("New Year's Day," "40," "Seconds") are balanced by effective, surprisingly emotional love songs ("Two Hearts Beat as One"), which are just as desperate and pleading as his protests. He performs the difficult task of making the universal sound personal, and the band helps him out by bringing the songs crashing home with muscular, forceful performances that reveal their varied, expressive textures upon repeated listens. U2 always aimed at greatness, but War was the first time they achieved it.

tags: u2, war, 1983, flac,

September 19, 2016

Various Artists - The Punisher: The Album (2004)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Rock, Nü-Metal, Post Grunge
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© 2004 Wind-Up Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: various artists, the punisher the album, punisher soundtrack, 2004, flac, ost,

September 16, 2016

Dru Hill - Enter The Dru (1998)

 
Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 1998 Island Records
AllMusic Review by Michael Gallucci
The best of the late-'90s R&B crooning quartets ups the musical ante on their sophomore album, lacing the silky-smooth grooves with splashes of street-tough shouts that are meant to antagonize as much as they are to seduce. And for a good deal of Enter the Dru, the formula works. There's a gutsy edge to the songs here (especially the hard-knocking "How Deep Is Your Love") that make one-time peers like Boyz II Men sound like the soulless R&B robots they are. Even when they get all warm and cozy with Babyface on the potentially mushy "These Are the Times" (in spite the absurdity of the straight-faced line "Tear you up in little pieces/Swallow you like Reese's Pieces"), Dru Hill slice into the section of '90s soul music that crosses bedroom come-ons with classic street savvy (and nervy beats) without sounding at all whipped.

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Dru Hill - Dru Hill (1996)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 1996 Island Black Music
AllMusic Review by Rob Theakston
Rich harmonies and sleek R&B production with an abundance of vocal acrobatics are all key elements of Dru Hill's eponymous debut. Immediate comparisons to Jodeci and Boyz II Men come to mind, but what makes Dru Hill stand out from the pack is the rawness of Keith Sweat's productions. Other songs on here are of noteworthy interest only to die-hard Dru Hill fanatics, but it was the monster "Tell Me" that effectively put Dru Hill near the head of R&B's class of 1996 -- a year that featured stellar releases by Aaliyah, Jay-Z, and several others at the peak of their games. An impressive debut and a razor-sharp clue of the great things to come.

tags: dru hill, dru hill album, 1996, flac,

September 14, 2016

Rob Zombie - Educated Horses (2006)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Industrial Metal
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© 2006 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
When he's not directing feature films like House of 1000 Corpses and Devil's Rejects, Rob Zombie likes to make music. Educated Horses, the prolific director, writer/animator/horror aficionado's return to the world of hedonistic, sexed-up monster rock doesn't stray too far from the formula that garnered him such a rabid fan base, but there's less theater and more backwoods creepiness at hand this time around. Horses crawls on all fours for the first three tracks, relying on too many tried-and-true White Zombie dance beats and turgid guitar riffs to hint at anything outside of sheer puppetry, but when the mid-tempo crunch of "17 Year Locust" begins to echo Sabotage-era Black Sabbath, it's clear that Zombie himself is having the time of his life pulling the strings. "Scorpion Sleeps," with its boot-stomping intro plays like Gary Glitter's "Rock & Roll, Pt.1" blaring from angel's trumpets at the apocalypse, "Ride," with its Tubular Bells-inspired piano riff, evolves into a storm of sonic debauchery, and the purely psychedelic singalong "Death of It All" sounds like the end credits to the last film ever. Schlock it may be, but it's infinitely more listenable -- and enjoyable -- than most schlock thinks it is.

September 13, 2016

Falconer - Northwind (2006)

Country: Sweden
Language: English, Swedish (Svenska)
Genre: Power Metal, Folk Metal
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© 2006 Metal Blade Records
Review by Matt Collar for MetalCrypt.com
At last, at last. I will say right here that I loved Falconer's first two albums so much it isn't even funny, so anyone who didn't like those should probably just skip this one. This is their fifth album, and after one so-so album and one crappy one, they are back on track with the awesome Northwind. Of course, the big news is that original singer Mathias Blad is back in the band. Kristoffer Gobel was OK, but he just wasn't right for this band, and, well, no one could have saved Grime Vs Grandeur, so let's just forget about that. But for me (and for lots of other people apparently) Blad is just the voice of Falconer, and without him it isn't the same band at all. For this new album the band has also ditched the 'realistic' lyrics of their last effort and returned to the Medieval/Folklore themes that their fans wanted anyway. So: the folk riffs are back, Mathias Blad is back, the mythic lyrics are back. All good. From the first listen to the opener/title track I was all smiles, and I kept smiling. I suppose as a way of saying 'sorry' and trying to regain their momentum, Stefan and Co. have punched out a long, satisfying album of that signature Falconer sound highlighted by Blad's smooth, stage-trained voice. This album is mostly more of a grower than their first two, with more involved melodies and less immediately addictive songs. This album is not as heavy as their first one – more melodic and less punchy. All the songs are of a consistent high quality, if not quiiite on a par with their best. There may not be any songs on here quite as good as "Heresy In Disguise" or "Decadence Of Dignity", but there are fourteen songs almost that good. I can't give this a perfect score, because I know this band can do even better than this, but for such a return to form I am prepared to cut them a lot of slack. I thought Falconer had lost it, but this is more like it. With Blad back at the mike, they have made the album they should have recorded after Chapters From A Vale Forlorn. If we're lucky they might even rerecord Scepter Of Deception with the right singer, or better yet, make another album even better than this one. One of the years' best.

tags: falconer, northwind, north wind, 2006, flac,

Cyndi Lauper - Shine (2004)

*Released exclusively in Japan.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, Pop Rock
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© 2004 Epic Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: cyndi lauper, shine, 2004, flac,

September 12, 2016

Falconer - Among Beggars & Thieves (Limited Edition) (2008)

*Contains 2 bonus tracks. 
13 tracks total.
Country: Sweden
Language: English, Swedish (Svenska)
Genre: Power Metal, Folk Metal
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© 2008 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
Add two scoops of Iron Maiden-style galloping metal, one scoop of Queensrÿche-style singing, a spoonful of Kamelot-style lyrics, and a pinch of Spinal Tap-style bombast, and you get Falconer. As heard throughout their 2008 release, Among Beggars and Thieves, this quintet that hails from Mjölby, Sweden are well-versed in all of these aforementioned musical approaches. Prog metal, medieval metal, and even folk metal are all subgenres that the group falls under, as tracks such as the album opener, "Field of Sorrow," "Vargaskall," and the title track fit neatly into all these metallic styles. There's no debate that the lads are technical experts at their instruments, while singer Mathias Blad can hold his own against Bruce Dickinson and Geoff Tate. But that said, Falconer doesn't display enough of its own take on the aforementioned metal styles, which by this point, have been done a zillion times over by countless other bands. Still, if it's complex, challenging, and verbose metal you seek, then it's time for you to hail Falconer and the arrival of Among Beggars and Thieves.

tags: falconer, among beggars and thieves, limited edition, 2008, flac,

Falconer - Grime Vs. Grandeur (2005)

 
Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Power Metal
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© 2005 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Grime vs. Grandeur is as proudly power metal as any Falconer release. The harmonized guitars gallop, and its cascading melodies suggest grassy plains where the Rohirrim ride. But since 2003's Sceptre of Deception, Falconer founder and guitarist Stefan Weinerhall has expanded his songwriting collaboration with vocalist Kristoffer Göbel, and together they aren't as reliant on the mechanism of heavy-handed fantasy. Göbel will still rip with his Herculean throat into mirthful lines like "Assailant"'s "You feel like a tiger, rush is in your veins/You have to try and break these chains" or "You won't feel a thing when I loot your body" from the Jack the Ripper riff "Jack the Knife." But the lyrics work in context because instead of a grand, solitary theme (which would flirt with hokey) Falconer have opted for numerous small ones. They've also written some of their strongest melodies, and that's really what keeps Grime vs. Grandeur going. "Emotional Skies" opens with an interestingly timed verse section before launching its rousing gang vocal chorus; its additional female harmony is a fantastic touch, adding warmth to a sound that can be a little too mannish. Devotees of late-'80s power metal will love the rapid-fire instrumentation and high-flying vocals of "Purgatory Time," while fans of Falconer's folk melody side will really hear it in "Humanity Overdose" and "Child of the Wild." "Power" might not live up to its bold title, and rhyming "power" with "devour" should be prohibited. But Göbel uses every layer in his expressive voice, channeling both Rob Halford and Geoff Tate, and Falconer make it work. The band's embrace of all things power metal -- unfortunate clichés included -- is a two-way street. But Grime vs. Grandeur successfully embodies both sides of its title, and regulates its more ambitiously fantastic moments with an undeniable sense of conviction.

tags: falconer, grime vs grandeur, 2005, flac,

September 11, 2016

Falconer - The Sceptre of Deception (2003)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Power Metal
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© 2003 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by John Serba
Power metal in any form can be a difficult pill to swallow, what with all the 1980s pomp, musicianly wanking, and J.R.R. Tolkien worship, and the genre's better bands set aside such clichés for a heady dose of harsh reality and a lack of pompousness (see: Nevermore and, to a lesser extent, Iced Earth). So Falconer doesn't do much for the genre with The Sceptre of Deception, a concept album about Viking kings and dukes during the 13th century. And while groups like Manowar and Hammerfall approach such topics with tongues in cheek (we hope!), Falconer is ridiculously sincere about its overblown musical excursions -- all galloping Iron Maiden riffs 'n' rhythms, awkward lyrical endeavors, contrived "metal" vocals and inadvertently comical yo-ho-ho folk melodies (see the title track and "Under the Sword"). Only the perennially clueless (and fans of Yngwie Malmsteen) will find value in the annoyingly bloated pseudo-opera silliness such as "Pledge for Freedom" and "Night of Infamy," and the story, bolstered by stilted prose segments -- which betray some obvious English-as-a-second-language difficulties -- in the CD booklet, delves not into fantastical demons-and-sorcery rhetoric, but yawn-inducing cheeseball political drama. Falconer's endeavors may appeal to a very select niche of the metal-listening public, but an objective listen to The Sceptre of Deception will only result in eyeball-rolling and guffaws.

tags: falconer, the sceptre of deception, 2003, flac,

Falconer - Black Moon Rising (2014)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Power Metal
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© 2014 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney
On their own, folk metal and power metal are both capable of creating sprawling musical adventures, but when you combine them as Falconer have, the result is something truly epic. A piece of pure, unadulterated heavy metal escapism, the Swedish band's eighth album, Black Moon Rising, immediately transports the listener to a more fantastic world. The medieval riffs of the album opener, "Locust Swarm," make it hard not to imagine standing atop a mountain clad in glistening armor with a sword in each hand. Although the power fantasy elements of the music are engaging all on their own, the real surprise with Falconer's music lies in its elegance. Despite its driving bombast, "At the Jester's Ball" feels stately and dignified, as if you've wandered into the middle of a courtly dance. This feeling of refinement comes from Falconer's folk metal leanings, which add an old-world flourish to their searing power metal, as well as a simplicity that keeps them from turning the album into an advanced lesson in music theory. With music like this, it's easy for a band to fall into a rabbit hole of its own virtuosity, pushing the musicianship to its extremes, only to lose sight of melody. While Black Moon Rising has its share of brilliant technicality, like the fiery solos in "Dawning of a Sombre Age" and "Age of Runes," by keeping things relatively restrained, Falconer are able to create dazzling compositions that ensorcell listeners without throwing too much at them, making for a fun record for those looking to add a little fantasy to their lives.

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Falconer - Chapters From a Vale Forlorn (2002)

 
Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Power Metal, Folk Metal
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© 2002 Metal Blade Records
Review by MetalReviews.com
Falconer have returned with their second and strongest effort so far, Chapters From a Vale Forlorn. First off, I must commend the band for their superb artwork on this album! If there is one thing that can be said about Falconer, I would say that they certainly have a sound all their own. With a great number of power metal bands out today singing about warriors off to battle, kings, dragons, and other fantasy topics, Falconer maintain a darker, more serious medieval theme. The bass guitar has a strong presence throughout and is played with great authority which results in a dark, ominous feel to the album. And of course, there is Mathias’ unique vocal style which can be best described as close to that of Ten’s Gary Hughes, very warm and melodic. Mathias has certainly improved his vocal delivery on this album compared to the first. I think he is adapting quite well to life in a metal band as compared to theatrical singing. Mathias seems much more comfortable as part of this band than he did on the debut which makes for a very pleasurable listen. Instead of some uncomfortable moments of sorts on the first album, Mathias’ voice is now a great asset to the band. At times he sounds as if he would like to reach into the higher octaves, but he takes the safe route and opts not to most of the time. However, he does extend his range upward a bit on The Clarion Call and pulls it off very well. If this track is any indication of Mathias’ capabilities, I see only good things in the band’s future. This is only Mathias’ second power metal album he has performed on. Like I said earlier, he was in the theater scene before his call of duty to Falconer, but he is quickly getting used to fronting a metal band and his notable improvement on this album only has me wondering what he has in store for us with the band’s third album. After hearing the band’s first album, I thought Mathias might be the one factor holding the band back, but this second album has me convinced that he will only continue to improve and adapt to the style of the band and help them achieve great things in the future. At first, I was a bit surprised at the diminished power of this album when compared to the first. In fact, only three tracks, Decadence of Dignity, For Life and Liberty, and The Clarion Call featuring the galloping double bass. But after a few spins of this CD, the medieval atmosphere of this album will engulf you and you will be able picture yourself in a room similar to that on the front cover. Portal of Light is emotion and wonderful ballad featuring some nicely done dual guitar licks, and a masterful vocal performance. Lament of a Minstrel is another slower tempo track with a flute used in the background, but is one of the most successful in terms of providing a medieval feel for the listener. The remaining four tracks are of the mid tempo variety. So, while this album has its powerful moments, it is also a more mature album that lets its unique medieval atmosphere work its magic on the listener. There is not much, if any background shredding and the solos are well done and intricate, but not overdone. Again, I do enjoy shredding and wild solos, but that type of guitar work simply would not fit the atmosphere generated on this album. With their second album, Falconer have demonstrated that they are a band on the upswing. With much improved vocals and a unique atmosphere all their own, there is no justice in trying to compare these guys to another band. Falconer sound like Falconer, end of sentence. While I enjoyed the power of the debut, I think the improved vocals and the atmosphere generated by this album more than make up for the slightly less powerful delivery of this album. Great job, guys!

tags: falconer, chapters from a forlorn, 2002, flac,

September 04, 2016

Scorpions - Face The Heat (1993)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1993 Mercury Records
AllMusic Review by Barry Weber
Not even renowned metal producer Bruce Fairbairn could save this disappointing follow-up to the outstanding release Crazy World. Instead of concentrating on melodic tunes, Face The Heat seems to focus on noisy metal and glass-shattering screaming rather than the usual classic and emotional sounds that the Scorpions have put on their previous albums. Especially when compared to their previous recordings, Face The Heat is quite unsatisfactory

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September 03, 2016

TLC - 3D (2002)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 2002 Artista Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
How good is TLC? So good that they survive the tragic, early death of a key member -- Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes was killed in a car accident during the recording of 3D -- with grace and style, turning out a record that sits comfortably next to their modern classics, Crazysexycool and FanMail. Perhaps surviving members Chilli and T-Boz spend a little too much time in the lyrics paying tribute to their colleague, but it's easy to glide past that and just concentrate on the strong songwriting and stylish production. Like their previous albums, the particulars don't matter as much as the overall impression. No member of TLC has an astounding voice, but their skills are exploited to the hilt, since the material not only suits them, it's melodic, memorable, and grows in stature with each play. Best of all, the production plays to the strength of the song, balancing the group's character and abilities with the hooks and character of the song. Perhaps 3D doesn't blaze trails like their other albums, but it never plays it safe and it always satisfies, and it's one of the best modern soul albums of 2002. A bittersweet triumph, perhaps, but it's better to go out on a positive note.

tags: tlc, 3d, 2002, flac,