November 29, 2016

HIM - Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666 (1997) ☠

Country: Finland
Language: English
Genre: Gothic Rock
Label Number: 74321 53106 2
☠: Selected by Lass
© 1997 Terrier
AllMusic Review by Antti J. Ravelin
You wouldn't expect a lot from a band whose debut album is entitled Greatest Lovesongs, Vol. 666, but H.I.M. surprises in a very positive way. H.I.M.'s stigma of so-called "love metal" is actually undeserved and relates only to Ville Valo's love-oriented lyrics; the music itself combines metal with '80s rock and some goth influences, and the album as a whole has a very diverse sound. Songs such as "The Beginning of the End" and "It's All Tears" especially prove that H.I.M. can do a lot better than their poor single track "When Love and Death Embrace." Two cover songs on a nine-track debut album might be too much, but Ville Valo seems to beg the difference. In fact, H.I.M.'s versions of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" and Blue Öyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" are very idiosyncratic and fit very well on Greatest Lovesongs, Vol. 666. "Wicked Game," especially, is somehow even better than Isaak's original version, or at least it proves that H.I.M. does have a sense for dynamics instead of playing just quiet or loud, which is pretty typical of H.I.M.'s contemporaries. "Don't Fear the Reaper" intriguingly reduces the volume at the end of the album and the female vocals and piano add hopeful tenderness. Greatest Lovesongs, Vol. 666 succeeds in pleasing everyone, whether they're into rock or pop.

tags: him, h.i.m., greatest lovesongs vol 666, 1997, flac,

November 26, 2016

Iced Earth - The Dark Saga (Limited Edtion) (1996)

*U.K. & European pressing. 
Contains 1 bonus track and 11 tracks total.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal
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© 1996 Century Media
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
As the cover artwork would suggest, Iced Earth's fourth album, 1996's The Dark Saga, is a concept album based on the popular Todd MacFarlane comic book series Spawn. Though most of the album poses the band in an uncommonly laid-back, non-thrashy mood, the songwriting of leader and guitarist Jon Schaffer is at an all-time inspirational high. In fact the band knocks out both the title track and the excellent "I Died for You" before the furious "Violate" provides the first taste of a double kick drum. Versatile singer Matthew Barlow is impressive throughout but the remarkable interplay between Schaffer and lead guitarist Randall Shawver is the album's true highlight, most notably on the dual harmonies of "The Hunter." Some of the momentum is lost with "The Suffering," a three-song suite that tends to plod along at times, but overall this is a strong album, and one of the band's best.

November 25, 2016

T.T. Quick - Sloppy Seconds (1989)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1989-1992 Halycon Recording Corporation
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: tt quick, sloppy seconds, 1989, flac,

November 24, 2016

P!nk - Can't Take Me Home (2000)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
Label Number: 73008-26062-2

© 2000 LaFace Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It may be hard to listen to Pink's debut album Can't Take Me Home without hearing TLC, specifically their 1999 album Fanmail. After all, L.A. Reid and Babyface were the executive producers for both albums, and they decided to use a skittering, post-jungle rhythm for the bedrock of these savvy, club-ready dance-pop productions -- a sound exploited expertly on TLC's record. If Can't Take Me Home pales next to Fanmail, it's not Pink's fault, nor is it because the album is sub-par; it's simply because it follows in the footsteps of a record that's as close to a modern classic as contemporary soul gets. Judged as its own entity, Pink's debut is quite strong, even if it isn't perfect. The production is masterminded by Babyface and LA Reid, who oversee such producers as Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, Terence "Tramp-Baby" Abney, Daryl Simmons, and Tricky (not to be confused with the dark trip-hop genius, of course), and throughout this album, their work sparkles, from the deft layers of drum machines to the sultriness of the slow grooves. For the most part, Pink's performances match that production -- she may not be able to deliver ballads with assurance and soul just yet, but she never over-sings. She also not only has an appealing voice, but displays a fair amount of chops. So, with the production and performances in place, that leaves just the songs. While there are no bad cuts on Can't Take Me Home, there aren't any knock-out punches, either. They're all fairly well-crafted, but they're more ingratiating than immediate, and if dance-pop should be anything, it should be indelible upon at least the second listen, if not the first. Many of the songs on Can't Take Me Home need a few spins before they truly sink in, which is a bit unfortunate. Still, it's not the worst situation in the world, either, especially since a lot of the tunes actually do make an impression with repeated plays. So, Can't Take Me Home doesn't really escape many of the pitfalls of a debut, but thanks to LA Reid and Babyface's production and Pink's engaging talents, it's a promising first effort all the same.

tags: p!nk, pink, cant take me home, 2000, flac,

November 16, 2016

Various Artists - WWF Forceable Entry (2002)

* U.S. release. This version does not contain the track "Slow Chemical"

Country: U.S.A
Genres: Alternative Rock, Rapcore, Nü-Metal, Industrial Rock, Alternative Metal
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© 2002 Smackdown Records/Columbia
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Forceable Entry features 18 alt.metal, hard rock, and otherwise heavy tracks that double as entrance themes for WWF wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austin (Disturbed, "Glass Shatters"), Triple H (Drowning Pool, "The Game"), and Chris Jericho (Sevendust's reference-appropriate "Break the Walls Down"). Marilyn Manson's "Beautiful People" gets an exclusive, more gothically rocking WWF remix; heavy moaners Union Underground's "Move to the Music" serves as the theme for Raw itself. Even federation kingpin Vince McMahon gets into the act, adopting the grinding metal of Dope's "No Chance" as his own. Forceable Entry will be most relevant for wrestling fans. But fans of heavy music -- or anyone curious about Kid Rock covering ZZ Top -- might seek this set out in the local sale bin.

tags: wwf forceable entry, wwe, 2002, flac,

November 13, 2016

Blink-182 - Cheshire Cat (1995)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
Label Number: CD GRL-001

© 1995 Cargo Music/Grilled Cheese
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Looking back, it's possible to see the roots of blink-182's tuneful frat punk on Cheshire Cat, but the fact of the matter is, this isn't as good an album as the ones that came later. That doesn't mean it's bad, since it skates by on its impish pranks and brash musicality, but the group is rather scattershot here, hitting the target as often as they miss it. There's enough here to dig into if you're a fan, but you have to be a fan to appreciate it.

 tags: blink 182, blink-182, cheshire cat, 1994, flac,

Blink-182 - Neighborhoods (Deluxe Edition) (2011)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
Label Number: B0016034-02

© 2011 DGC Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
So here it is, Neighborhoods, the inevitable reunion album, delivered eight years after blink-182’s last album, six years after Tom DeLonge indulged his U2 worship via Angels & Airwaves, five years after Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker whiled away their time with +44, and two years after the trio re-formed for a tour, igniting the long fuse that led to this sixth blink-182 album. Produced by the three blinkers themselves, Neighborhoods certainly is a different beast than any of the cheerfully snotty early blink-182 albums, as the band picks up the gloomy thread left hanging on its eponymous 2003 album, the one that was connected ever so slightly to “Stay Together for the Kids,” the hit from 2001’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket that signaled some deeper emotions behind the goofy façade. Very little of that slapstick is retained on Neighborhoods; it’s been replaced by atmospheric echoes stripped from Angels & Airwaves, a pretension from DeLonge that’s given form and a pulse by Barker and Hoppus. Although there’s considerably more momentum -- and hooks! -- on Neighborhoods than either A&A album, this still gets plenty ponderous, taking so many scenic detours that the three-minute songs often seem twice as long. Blink-182 are hardly the first band to equate maturity with prog rock, going so far to cop a good chunk of their themes and artistic aesthetic for Neighborhoods from Rush’s “Subdivisions,” yet it’s far better to hear blink-182 grapple with adolescent angst via the perspective of middle age than vainly attempting to re-create their youth. Perhaps blink could stand to sharpen their words but it’s better that they concentrated on their music, creating a fairly ridiculous yet mildly compelling prog-punk spin on the suburbs here. Guess the hiatus did them some good.

 tags: blink 182, blink-182, neighborhoods, deluxe edition, 2011, flac,

November 12, 2016

Blink-182 - Dude Ranch (1997) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
Label Number: CRGD-11624
☠: Selected by Lass
© 1997 Cargo/MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
On their third album, Dude Ranch, blink-182 follow in the same path as their first two, turning out 15 tracks of juvenile, adrenaline-fueled punk-pop. Some listeners will find their potty humor ("Dick Lips") somewhat irritating, but the group has written some surprisingly catchy hooks, which might win over skeptics. The songwriting is still a little uneven, but overall, Dude Ranch is an improvement over their first album, Cheshire Cat.

tags: blink 182, blink-182, dude ranch, 1997, flac,

Blink-182 - Take Off Your Pants & Jacket (2001)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
Label Number: 088 112 627-2

© 2001 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Darren Ratner
Not too much has changed since we last left blink-182. You might hear the same snap, crackle, and pop that the trio has prided themselves on for almost ten years. There's even the continual cabbage-patch screech of Tom Delonge and support for rampant teen angst. But five albums later, these San Diego natives grab their rosy-cheek punkadelics and add a bit more of a flamboyant, passionate maturation on Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. When Enema of the State leaped onto the charts in 1999, the lyrical direction was 90 percent party-boy mentality, leaving little room for traces of a growth spurt. And while we're still feeling the continual back-drip of tracks from Enema, the fresh plethora of tunes from these rambunctious Toys-R-Us rockers have more purpose than ever. With a fight-for-your-right joviality that's often irresistible, songs like "Anthem Part 2" and "Stay Together for the Kids" house a indomitable school-kid voice where a surging vapor of knockout speed chords meet wrecking-ball percussion. The meanings are bucketed and spilled, with lines like "If we're f*cked up/You're to blame" ("Anthem Part 2"). And forget about escaping lyrics such as, "I'll never talk to you again/Unless your dad 'ill suck me off," which stems from the hilarious, almost brilliant 42-second clash called "Happy Holidays, You Bastard." "First Date" and "Roller Coaster" are only a couple of their tunes that act as therapy for post-pubescent dilemma, also present on previous efforts like Enema and Dude Ranch. Each song about the rotten girlfriend or unhip parent speaks loud and often to the 2000 MTV generation. Nevertheless, the dumped-in-the-amusement-park tone and lyrical progression are sharp, if not entertaining. The band's stint on the Vans Warped Tour, with veteran punksters such as Pennywise and Rancid, has become a supreme outlet for blink-182. Take Off Your Pants is one of their finest works to date, with almost every track sporting a commanding articulation and new-school punk sounds. They've definitely put a big-time notch in the win column.

 tags: blink 182, blink-182,take off your pants and jacket, 2001, flac,

November 11, 2016

Blink-182 - Blink-182 (2003)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
Label Number: 602498614082

© 2003 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
There comes a time in every punk's life where he or she has to grow up, or at least acknowledge that maturity is just around the corner. blink-182 put it off for as long as they could, but ten years into their career and two albums after their big breakthrough, 1999's Enema of the State, they decided to make a stab at being grown-ups for their eponymous sixth studio album. As with many self-titled albums, the trio uses this as an attempt to redefine itself, and they have considerably expanded both their sonic template and lyrical outlook on blink-182. They're still rooted in punk-pop, but even songs that stretch no further than that sound are a little darker, a little restless, reflecting the overall mood of the record. In shorthand, this is the record where blink-182 delve into post-punk, opting for some appealingly sullen moodiness, off-kilter hooks, lots of sonic textures, and even a duet with the Cure's Robert Smith. Since the trio is an inherently catchy group, this is a far cry from neo-post-punk groups like Interpol or even the dynamically hooky Hot Hot Heat, but there is a greater variety of sounds on blink-182 than on any of the trio's other albums, and the songwriting is similarly adventurous, alternating punchy, impassioned punk-pop with weirder, atmospheric pieces like "Down" and "I'm Lost Without You." If nothing on the album has the immediate impact of "All the Small Things" -- though the opener, "Feeling This," comes close -- and if, on the whole, blink-182 isn't as bracing or visceral as Dude Ranch or Enema, so be it: there's more to explore on this album than any of their other records. It's an unexpected and welcome maturation from a band that just an album ago seemed permanently stuck in juvenilia.

tags: blink-182, blink 182 album, 2003, flac,

Blink-182 - Enema of The State (1999) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
Label Number: MCD 11950
☠: Selected by Lass
© 1999 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
If the title Enema of the State didn't give it away, it should be clear from songs like "Dumpweed," "What's My Age Again?," and "Dysentery Gary" that moving to a major label isn't a sign of maturity for blink-182. "Dammit (Growing Up)," the first single from their third album, Dude Ranch, brought them a wider audience and the attention of major labels, which was just too tempting to resist. They signed with MCA, but the only sign that Enema of the State is a major-label effort is the somewhat cleaner production and the fact that they could afford porn superstar Janine -- all decked out as (surprise!) an enema nurse -- for the album cover. Of course, the lovely Janine is as much an indication as "Going Away to College," a catchy little number that pretty much repeats the narrative of "Dammit": blink-182 is not growing up, no way, no how, nowhere. And that's fine, because few of their peers are quite as blissfully stupid and effortlessly catchy as them. Sure, they might not show the emotional depth of Green Day, but they have good tunes and deliver them in a speedy, punchy fashion. Enema of the State isn't going to change anyone's life -- unless it's the first time a 13-year-old boy has seen Janine -- and it will likely irritate old codgers, but it's a fun record that's better than the average neo-punk release.

tags: blink 182, blink-182, enema of the state, 1999, flac,

TLC - FanMail (1999) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
Label Number: 73008 26055 2
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1999 LaFace Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Crazysexycool was one of those records that defined an era. Few records before it combined hip-hop and classic soul songwriting quite as intoxicatingly or gracefully -- the performances and productions were utterly seamless. It would have been difficult to top anyway, but TLC had it doubly bad, since a number of behind-the-scenes problems delayed a sequel for nearly five years. As with any eagerly anticipated record, that follow-up, FanMail, arrived with too many expectations. And initially, it may be disappointing to realize TLC doesn't forge new ground with FanMail, but after a few spins, it settles in that nobody else makes urban soul quite as engaging as this. Not that it was easy to make this record, as the head-spinning list of collaborators indicates. Almost ten producers worked on the record, all trying to replicate the easy, appealing sound of Crazysexycool. And "replicate" is the right word, since there are no new innovations on FanMail, apart from a few lifts from the Timbaland book of tricks. Nevertheless, that may be for the best, since TLC and their army of producers have spent time crafting the songs and productions, turning FanMail into a record that almost reaches the peaks of its predecessor. By the end of the record, it appears that they can do it all -- funky, hip-hop-fueled dance-pop, seductive ballads, and mid-tempo jams -- and they can do it all well. Other groups try to reach these heights, but they don't have the skills or the material to pull it off quite so well. True, the five-year wait felt interminable, and they're now standard-bearers instead of pioneers, but if takes TLC as long to make a sequel to FanMail, so be it -- they have one of the best track records in '90s urban soul.

tags: tlc, fan mail, fanmail, 1999, flac,

TLC - CrazySexyCool (1994) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
Label Number: 73008-26009-2
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1994 LaFace Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
On their second album, TLC downplay their overt rap connections, recording a smooth, seductive collection of contemporary soul reminiscent of both Philly soul and Prince, powered by new jack and hip-hop beats. Lisa Lopes contributes the occasional rap, but the majority of CrazySexyCool belongs to Tionne Watkins and Rozonda Thomas. While they aren't the most accomplished vocalists -- they have a tendency to be just slightly off-key -- the material they sing is consistently strong. As the cover of Prince's "If I Was Your Girlfriend" indicates, TLC favor erotic, mid-tempo funk. Yet the group removes any of the psychosexual complexities of Prince's songs, leaving a batch of sexy material that just sounds good, especially the hit singles. Both "Creep" and "Red Light Special" have a deep groove that accentuates the slinky hooks, but it's "Waterfalls," with its gently insistent horns and guitar lines and instantly memorable chorus, that ranks as one of the classic R&B songs of the '90s.

tags: tlc, crazysexycool, crazy sexy cool, 1994, flac,

November 06, 2016

The Police - Ghost In The Machine (1981)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave
Label Number: CD-3730

© 1981-1985 A&M Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
For their fourth album, 1981's Ghost in the Machine, the Police had streamlined their sound to focus more on their pop side and less on their trademark reggae-rock. Their jazz influence had become more prominent, as evidenced by the appearance of saxophones on several tracks. The production has more of a contemporary '80s sound to it (courtesy of Hugh Padgham, who took over for Nigel Gray), and Sting proved once and for all to be a master of the pop songwriting format. The album spawned several hits, such as the energetic "Spirits in the Material World" (notice how the central rhythms are played by synthesizer instead of guitar to mask the reggae connection) and a tribute to those living amid the turmoil and violence in Northern Ireland circa the early '80s, "Invisible Sun." But the best and most renowned of the bunch is undoubtedly the blissful "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," which topped the U.K. singles chart and nearly did the same in the U.S. (number three). Unlike the other Police releases, not all of the tracks are stellar ("Hungry for You," "Omegaman"), but the vicious jazz-rocker "Demolition Man," the barely containable "Rehumanize Yourself," and a pair of album-closing ballads ("Secret Journey," "Darkness") proved otherwise. While it was not a pop masterpiece, Ghost in the Machine did serve as an important stepping stone between their more direct early work and their more ambitious latter direction, resulting in the trio's exceptional blockbuster final album, 1983's Synchronicity.

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The Police - Synchronicity (1983)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave
Label Number: CD 3735

© 1983 A&M Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Simultaneously more pop-oriented and experimental than either Ghost in the Machine or Zenyatta Mondatta, Synchronicity made the Police superstars, generating no less than five hit singles. With the exception of "Synchronicity II," which sounds disarmingly like a crappy Billy Idol song, every one of those singles is a classic. "Every Breath You Take" has a seductive, rolling beat masking its maliciousness, "King of Pain" and "Wrapped Around Your Finger" are devilishly infectious new wave singles, and "Tea in the Sahara" is hypnotic in its measured, melancholy choruses. But, like so many other Police albums, these songs are surrounded by utterly inconsequential filler. This time, the group relies heavily on jazzy textures for Sting's songs, which only work on the jumping, marimba-driven "Synchronicity I." Then, as if to prove that the Police were still a band, there's one song apiece from Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers, both of which are awful, as if they're trying to sabotage the album. Since they arrive on the first side, which is devoid of singles, they do, making the album sound like two EPs: one filled with first-rate pop, and one an exercise in self-indulgence. While the hits are among Sting's best, they also illustrate that he was ready to leave the Police behind for a solo career, which is exactly what he did.

tags: the police, synchronicity, 1983, flac,

November 05, 2016

The Police - Outlandos d'Amour (1978)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave
Label Number: CD-4753

© 1978-1983 A&M Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
While their subsequent chart-topping albums would contain far more ambitious songwriting and musicianship, the Police's 1978 debut, Outlandos d'Amour (translation: Outlaws of Love) is by far their most direct and straightforward release. Although Sting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland were all superb instrumentalists with jazz backgrounds, it was much easier to get a record contract in late-'70s England if you were a punk/new wave artist, so the band decided to mask their instrumental prowess with a set of strong, adrenaline-charged rock, albeit with a reggae tinge. Some of it may have been simplistic ("Be My Girl-Sally," "Born in the '50s"), but Sting was already an ace songwriter, as evidenced by all-time classics like the good-girl-gone-bad tale of "Roxanne," and a pair of brokenhearted reggae-rock ditties, "Can't Stand Losing You" and "So Lonely." But like all other Police albums, the lesser-known album cuts are often highlights themselves -- the frenzied rockers "Next to You," "Peanuts," and "Truth Hits Everybody," as well as more exotic fare like the groovy album closer "Masoko Tanga" and the lonesome "Hole in My Life." Outlandos d'Amour is unquestionably one of the finest debuts to come out of the '70s punk/new wave movement.

tags: the police, outlandos d amour, 1978, flac,

The Police - Reggatta De Blanc (1984)

*Reissued by A&M records on an unknown date. 
This is a repress of the original 1979 LP release. 
Contains 11 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave, Reggae Pop
Label Number: CD 3312

© 1979-1984 A&M Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
By 1979's Reggatta de Blanc (translation: White Reggae), nonstop touring had sharpened the Police's original blend of reggae-rock to perfection, resulting in breakthrough success. Containing a pair of massive hit singles -- the inspirational anthem "Message in a Bottle" and the spacious "Walking on the Moon" -- the album also signaled a change in the band's sound. Whereas their debut got its point across with raw, energetic performances, Reggatta de Blanc was much more polished production-wise and fully developed from a songwriting standpoint. While vigorous rockers did crop up from time to time ("It's Alright for You," "Deathwish," "No Time This Time," and the Grammy-winning instrumental title track), the material was overall much more sedate than the debut -- "Bring on the Night," "The Bed's Too Big Without You," and "Does Everyone Stare." Also included was one of Stewart Copeland's two lead vocal appearances on a Police album, the witty "On Any Other Day," as well as one of the band's most eerie tracks, "Contact." With Reggatta de Blanc, many picked Sting and company to be the superstar band of the '80s, and the Police would prove them correct on the band's next release.

tags: the police, reggatta de blanc, 1984, flac,

The Police - Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave
Label Number: CDA64831

© 1980-1985 A&M Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
The stage was set for the Police to become one of the biggest acts of the '80s, and the band delivered with the 1980 classic Zenyatta Mondatta. The album proved to be the trio's second straight number one album in the U.K., while peaking at number three in the U.S. Arguably the best Police album, Zenyatta contains perhaps the quintessential new wave anthem, the haunting "Don't Stand So Close to Me," the story of an older teacher lusting after one of his students. While other tracks follow in the same spooky path (their second Grammy-winning instrumental "Behind My Camel" and "Shadows in the Rain"), most of the material is upbeat, such as the carefree U.S./U.K. Top Ten "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da," "Canary in a Coalmine," and "Man in a Suitcase." Sting includes his first set of politically charged lyrics in "Driven to Tears," "When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around," and "Bombs Away," which all observe the declining state of the world. While Sting would later criticize the album as not all it could have been (the band was rushed to complete the album in order to begin another tour), Zenyatta Mondatta remains one of the finest rock albums of all time.

tags: the police, zenyatta mondatta, 1980, flac,

November 03, 2016

Sugar Ray - Music For Cougars (2009)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 2009 Pulse Recordings
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Never let it be said that Sugar Ray doesn't know its audience. They make no bones about making Music for Cougars, those cougars being the very girls that shook their hips to "Fly" back in 1997 and are looking for a little bit of the same breezy vibe 12 years later, a little bit of sexy nostalgia to get them through their summer, a soundtrack to a few girls' nights out. Sugar Ray is not only comfortable with this vibe, they embrace it with open arms, dropping references to Sex & the City on their discofied "She's Got The (Woo-Hoo)," taking time to remember "When We Were Young," but they also have a keen eye on the present, and are not above trying to seem modern, rewriting Katy Perry's "Hot & Cold" for the chorus of "Closer." This kind of cheerful opportunism has always served Sugar Ray well -- remember, they abandoned their sub-Chili Peppers shuck-and-jive as soon as Lemonade and Brownies didn't work out -- and it does so here, probably because their half-decade rest has given them time to recharge the batteries, letting them pile up some typically infectious sunny pop hooks, the kind that worm into the subconscious no matter how hard you resist. Not that everything on Music for Cougars works -- like the titular aging sex kittens, Sugar Ray can sometimes try too hard to seem younger than their years, pushing the dance beats a little bit too hard, and Mark McGrath relies on some unseemly Auto-Tune, but even with this too-evident aural botox, the group remains a guilty pleasure that's a bit hard to resist.

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Sugar Ray - In The Pursuit of Leisure (2003)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 2003 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Do you want proof that Sugar Ray are smarter, or at least savvier, than they seem? They not only abandoned funk-metal the second they had a hit with the breezy "Fly," they ran with their newfound success, turning into the sunny, good-time summertime band that American pop radio desperately needed in the bleak, self-absorbed aftermath of grunge. Thing was, they were much better as a pop band than a rock band; although they could occasionally hit a rocker out of the park, as they did on the punky power pop of "Answer the Phone," they felt more comfortable when they laid back and let the hooks speak for themselves, something they felt increasingly comfortable doing with each successive album, culminating in their first-rate 2001 eponymous record. That was a clean, straightforward pop album, working within the mainstream tradition and sounding surprisingly timeless in many ways. Its 2003 successor continues in the pop vein, but it tries to be a more contemporary version of that album, overloaded with modern drum beats and loops and processed guitars. Often, this is merely window-dressing on a good pop song, but sometimes it overwhelms the track if there are no hooks there -- as it does, ironically, on the album's first single, "Mr. Bartender (It's So Easy)." So, it's not as consistent as Sugar Ray, stumbling on occasion, but it does deliver some great guilty pleasures -- the opening "Chasin' You Around"; the sweet "Heaven"; the rocker "In Through the Doggie Door," which redeems its title; the excellent cover of "Is She Really Going Out With Him?," where vocalist Mark McGrath precisely mimics the tone, timbre, and phrasing of Joe Jackson; and, finally, "Blues From a Gun," where they appropriate a Jesus & Mary Chain title and come up with a song that's pretty much the polar opposite of the Mary Chain. It all adds up to another winning record by a band who has proven to be far more resilient than anybody could have guessed when "Fly" flew to the top of the charts in 1997.

tags: sugar ray, in the pursuit of leisure, 2003, flac,

Virgin Steele - The Marriage of Heaven & Hell: Part Two (1995)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal, Symphonic Metal
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© 1995 T&T Records
AllMusic Review by Bryan Reesman
About as perfect as a metal album can get. There are so many incredible tracks: the ten-minute romantic elegy "Emalaith" (the ultimate power metal ballad), the lush "Unholy Water," and the ferocious "Rising Unchained." David Defeis practically perfects the concept of the noble savage in metal, macho yet sensitive, belligerent yet thoughtful. These qualities perfectly represent the dichotomies inherent in the metal world, particularly for those who like their metal smart and sophisticated while staying savage.

tags: virgin steele, steel, the marrigae of heaven and hell part 2, 1995, flac,

Sugar Ray - Sugar Ray (2001)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop Rock, Alternative Rock
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© 2001 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
By their fourth album, Sugar Ray had developed a real ease to their music. Starting with "Fly," they no longer tried so hard to rock -- they no longer tried to ape the Red Hot Chili Peppers -- and began relaxing into a sun-kissed, laid-back groove, the kind of music where even the fast numbers powered by distorted guitars don't necessarily sound heavy. This came to the forefront on 14:59, but it blossoms on that album's follow-up, Sugar Ray. Where 14:59 was a little self-conscious and jokey (culminating in a cover of Steve Miller's "Abracadabra"), Sugar Ray feels easy and natural, so it's easy to smile at the reference to Run-D.M.C.instead of cringing. And that'sthe key to the record -- it's relaxed, utterly without pretension, and often charmingly melodic. Sure, there are some cuts that fall flat, but this record is more consistent than any of their previous albums, thanks not only to a stronger set of material, but the fact that the band is gelling as a band, which makes even the missteps easier to listen to. Best of all, the band never runs from their past, adding another great summer single to their arsenal with "When It's Over" (easily the equal of "Fly" and "Every Morning"), while even sampling "Every Morning" on "Ours." All this doesn't make Sugar Ray seem new, but there's charm to their performances, which make the album seen fresh, all the same. For a supposed one-hit wonder, it's remarkable that they've released their best album four records into their career.

tags: sugar ray, sugar ray album, 2001, flac,

November 02, 2016

Sugar Ray - Floored (1997)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Nü-Metal, Reggae Fusion
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© 1997 Lava, Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Sugar Ray's second album, Floored, is a noticeable improvement from Lemonade and Brownies. The group's fusion of metal, funk, reggae, and rap is seamless and confident, partially because Sugar Ray now emphasize the groove, not the guitars. The group still has difficulty writing a consistent batch of songs, but its hooks are stronger than ever, as evidenced by the single "Fly," which features a cameo from Super Cat. Nothing on the album is quite as memorable as "Fly," but the other songs have similarly infectious beats and hooks, which is especially impressive considering that Lemonade and Brownies was devoid of both.

tags: sugar ray, floored, 1997, flac,