January 31, 2017

Bon Jovi - Keep The Faith (1992)

*European pressing. 
Contains 1 bonus track.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1992 Mercury Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Keep the Faith reintroduced Bon Jovi after almost four years of side projects and hiatuses. The musical climate had shifted considerably in that time, a fact that wasn't lost on the band. Faith blatantly brought to the surface the Bruce Springsteen influence that was always lurking in Bon Jovi's sound, and used it to frame Faith's more serious interpretation of the band's pop-metal groove. "I Believe" and "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" both amped up the blue-collar, gospel revivalist feel of Springsteen's "Tunnel of Love," dropping in triumphant power chord changes to ensure arena readiness. But Bon Jovi also took a page from Springsteen's Big Book of Epic Songwriting, padding Faith's center with ambitious balladry and a nearly ten-minute story-song, "Dry County," that wouldn't be out of place on a '70s rock album. Elsewhere, the hit single "Bed of Roses" wisely aimed for the verdant adult contemporary pastures pointed to by Bryan Adams with 1991's "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You," instead of gripping stupidly to the Aqua-Netted mane of glam rock power balladry. Some of the album's straightforward hard rock songs faltered, since they didn't sizzle like the band's vintage material and fell flat next to more inspired material like "In These Arms." But while miles of open highway separated the songwriting of Jon Bon Jovi and his mates from that of Springsteen, Keep the Faith deserves plenty of points for ambition, and it did succeed in updating the band's sound -- even if the replacement parts were bought used.

tags: bon jovi, keep the faith, 1992, flac,

January 30, 2017

Bon Jovi - New Jersey (1988) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1988 Mercury Records
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Bon Jovi had perfected a formula for hard pop/rock by the time of New Jersey, concentrating on singalong choruses sung over and over again, frequently by a rough, extensively overdubbed chorus, producing an effect not unlike what these songs sounded like in the arenas and stadiums where they were most often heard. The lyrics had that typical pop twist -- although they nominally expressed romantic commitment, sentiments such as "Lay Your Hands on Me" and "I'll Be There for You" worked equally well as a means for the band and its audience to reaffirm their affection for each other. The only thing that marred the perfection of this communion was Jon Bon Jovi's continuing obsession with a certain predecessor from his home state; at times, he seemed to be trying to re-create Born to Run using cheaper materials.

tags: bon jovi, new jersey, 1988, flac,

50 Cent - Before I Self Destruct (2009)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap, Pop Rap
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© 2009 Shady/Aftermath/Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
Released without the usual flurry of hype, Before I Self Destruct fulfills 50 Cent's contractual obligation to the Interscope label. It also doubles as a throwback album, returning the rapper to the hunger and hatred of his early mixtapes while skillfully recasting him as a wannabe upstart. That is, for the most part. The four radio-friendly bedroom numbers that conclude the album are out of place but fairly good to dime-piece beautiful, with the best being the Ne-Yo showcase “Baby by Me” (“Have a baby by me, baby/Be a millionaire”). As pleasing as these final numbers are, if you leave the room after the macho bruiser “I Got Swag” (“I'm infinitely special/Girl the Lord is gonna bless you/If you do what I tell you to do”), you'll return to a confusingly different album, one that's as glamorous but less vital. The monstrous run of tracks that leads up to this flash and polish can be summed up by 50's “This ain't Tha Carter/It's Sparta!,” a witty, deceptive, and brutish line barked over a prime Dr. Dre beat during the great “Death to My Enemies.” On the cut, the producer sounds like he's been digging on RZA, but the tension and dark-night feel he has created for “Psycho” is easily identifiable as Dre. Add an especially rapid 50 trading horror-show rhymes with Eminem and the G-Unit soldiers will testify that the Shady/Aftermath dream is still alive. While “So Disrespectful” is the perfect title for a song that shocks, stuns, and brings reminders of the gritty G-Unit Radio mixtape series at its best, the Rick Rock-produced “Stretch” is an even craftier balance of amoral and humorous as it references Plastic Man and Mr. Fantastic before explaining the profitable benefits of cutting cocaine. There are only three guest vocalists, and save a production credit for Havoc, the G-Unit posse is absent, and yet 50 is able to carry the album alone, sounding as inspired as he did on his Interscope debut. That album, Get Rich or Die Tryin', beats this one thanks to its proper balance and structure, but Before I Self Destruct is still a fantastic juggernaut of a 50 album if you exit early, and a very good one even if you don't.

tags: 50 cent, before i self destruct, 2009, flac,

January 29, 2017

Lord Finesse - The Awakening (2006 Reissue)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1995-2006 Traffic Entertainment Group
AllMusic Review by Brad Mills
With his third album, Lord Finesse representing D.I.T.C. (Diggin' in the Crates crew) brought together some of the finest rappers of the moment for an album almost entirely produced by Finesse himself. Known as a producer first and rapper a close second, Finesse is gifted in metaphorical rhyming like other well-known MCs such as Big L or Chino XL, and again produces a great record deserving of any rap fan's archive. Guests like Akinyele, KRS-One, MC Lyte, O.C., AG, Diamond D., and Kid Capri make up the all-star cast. Topping it all off are verses by Large Professor, Grand Puba, and Sadat X on arguably one of hip-hop's finest tracks ever, entitled "Actual Facts." With so much going for it, if you like you rap music there's really no reason you shouldn't own this album. As a side note for DJs out there, there is apparently a limited-edition instrumental version of this released on vinyl, so look for that floating around somewhere.

tags: lord finesse, the awakening, 1995, 2006, reissue, flac,

Wu-Tang Clan - 8 Diagrams (Limited Edition) (2007)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2007 SRC/Universal Motown
Review by Matt Collar for Allmusic.com
With anticipation so high it caused debate not only among fans but among the group itself, Wu-Tang Clan's fifth studio record, 8 Diagrams, found itself at the center of attention as 2007 wound down. First there was the announcement of the successful obtainment of the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" sample (which was later corrected to "interpolation," as it was actually played by Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante with help from George Harrison's son, a Wu enthusiast himself, Dhani). Then Raekwon did a highly publicized online interview in which he accused the RZA of taking a dictatorial stance regarding the shape of the album, calling him a "hip-hop hippie" who was moving the Clan in the wrong direction. Then Ghostface Killah followed suit, also protesting the timing of the release (it had been set for December 4, the same day The Big Doe Rehab was to come out, but was pushed back a week). Finally, RZA responded, diplomatically, thoughtfully, respecting the opinions of the dissenting MCs but standing by his own work.
There's reason for his confidence. Nothing RZA does is haphazard, and 8 Diagrams is clearly something he's put a lot of thought and energy into. It's beautifully, impeccably produced, from the soundtrack strings and horns of "Rushing Elephants" and "Unpredictable" to the philosophical samples and guitars that are interspersed throughout -- it's a mood record more than anything else, with no clear-cut single or fan favorites, the kind of thing that deepens and grows with every listen. Suffice it to say, it's probably not the album anyone would predict from the group after a six-year break, but it is truly RZA's crowning achievement, the result of both his years with the Wu and in Hollywood, intricate, dark, reflective, and gorgeous. These same qualities, however, can be used to support the less-than-enthusiastic response from Raekwon and Ghostface and fans of the early hard-hitting Wu-Tang of 36 Chambers (which, ironically -- or not -- was not the universally revered masterpiece it is now when it came out in 1993). The beats are certainly not something either usually raps over, and their moodiness and heavy attention to melody don't always fit their edgier flows. Still, both manage to contribute some pretty great verses -- Ghost on the Easy Mo Bee co-produced "Take It Back" ("We gonna have a ball/Might as well have a testicle") and "The Heart Gently Weeps," a song which also features the Chef at his finest, strange violent imagery and all -- and do nothing to discredit themselves, a repercussion Raekwon hinted at. In fact, all eight MCs are in fine form here. U-God, Masta Killa, and Inspectah Deck are able balance their old-school deliveries with the 23rd century beats, GZA is suitably genius-like ("Hold you for a ransom note/Goliath cutting David's throat/Grab your vests, abandon boat/And leave you out at sea to float," he spits on the excellent "Stick Me for My Riches"), RZA esoteric and serious (and the only one with a solo track, "Sunlight"), and Method Man absolutely great, showing up on no less than half the tracks, his raspy voice and tight rhymes reminiscent of his early Tical work.
8 Diagrams is certainly not perfect. There is far too much singing, particularly in the second half of the album, where things slow down considerably, which helps substantiate the criticism that's surrounded it: that it's too pretty, too soft. This is indeed a record that will be debated for a while, and one of the few about which pretty much everyone will be right, whether they love it or hate it. It is a departure from previous releases and it does focus on melody and guitars and strings, but it is also lush and well-crafted and smart and addictive. Part of what's made RZA (and the rest of the Clan) thrive is their unpredictability and inventiveness, and so to create something expected would be counterintuitive to the band's ethos, and to what's made them so revered and respected across nations and genres and generations. Hip-hop has indisputably changed since 1993, and for Wu-Tang to not change with it would be not only shortsighted, it would be detrimental to their own immense creative powers as well. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean everyone will appreciate what they've done, but that won't be because 8 Diagrams isn't good; it just depends if you're willing to (at least try to) understand it.

tags: wu tang clan, wu-tang clan, 8 diagrams, limited edition, 2007, flac,

Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy (2008)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock, Industrial Rock
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© 2008 Geffen/Black Frog Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
To put Chinese Democracy in some perspective: it arrives 17 years after the twin Use Your Illusion, the last set of original music by Guns N' Roses. Consider that 17 years prior to the Illusions, it was 1974, back before the Ramones and Sex Pistols, back before Aerosmith had Rocks and Toys in the Attic, back before Queen had A Night at the Opera -- back before almost anything that Axl Rose worships even existed. Generations have passed in these 17 years, but not for Axl. He cut himself off from the world following the trouble-ridden Use Your Illusion tour, retreating to the Hollywood Hills, swapping every original GNR member in favor of contract players culled from his mid-'90s musical obsessions -- Tommy Stinson from the Replacements, Robin Finck from Nine Inch Nails, Buckethead from guitar magazines -- as he turned into rock's Charles Foster Kane, a genius in self-imposed exile spending millions to make his own Xanadu, Chinese Democracy.
Like Xanadu, Chinese Democracy is a monument to man's might, but where Kane sought to bring the world underneath his roof, Axl labored to create an ideal version of his inner world, working endlessly on a set of songs about his heartbreak, persecution, and paranoia, topics well mined on the Illusions. Using the pompous ten-minute epics "Estranged" and "November Rain" as his foundation, Axl strips away all remnants of the old, snake-dancing GNR, shedding the black humor and blues, replacing any good times with vindictive spleen in the vein of "You Could Be Mine." All this melodrama and malevolence feels familiar and, surprisingly, so does much of Chinese Democracy, even for those listeners who didn't hear the portions of the record as leaked demos and live tracks. Despite a few surface flourishes -- all the endless, evident hours spent on Pro Tools, a hip-hop loop here, a Spanish six-string there, absurd elastic guitar effects -- this is an album unconcerned with the future of rock & roll. One listen and it's abundantly clear that Axl spent the decade-plus in the studio not reinventing but refining, obsessing over a handful of tracks, and spending an inordinate amount of time chasing the sound in his head -- that's it, no more, no less.
Such maniacal indulgence is ridiculous but strangely understandable: Rose received unlimited time and money to create this album, so why not take full advantage and obsess over every last detail? The odd thing is, he spent all this time and money on an album that is deliberately not a grand masterpiece -- a record that pushes limits or digs deep -- but merely a set of 14 songs. Compared to the chaotic Use Your Illusion, Chinese Democracy feels strangely modest, but that's because it's a single polished album, not a double album so overstuffed that it duplicates songs. Modest is an odd word for an album a decade-plus in the making, but Axl's intent is oddly simple: he sees GNR not as a gutter-rock band but as a pomp-rock vehicle for him to lash out against all those who don't trust him, whether it's failed friends, lapsed fans, ex-lovers, former managers, fired bandmates, or rock critics. Chinese Democracy is the best articulation of this megalomania as could be possible, so the only thing to quibble about is his execution, which occasionally is perplexing, particularly when Rose slides into hammy vocal inflections or encourages complicated guitar that only guitarists appreciate (it's telling that the only memorable phrases from Robin Finck, Buckethead, or Bumblefoot or whoever are ones that mimic Slash's full-throated melodic growl). Even with these odd flourishes, it's hard not to marvel, either in respect or bewilderment, at the dense, immaculate wall of god knows how many guitars, synthesizers, vocals, and strings.
The production is so dense that it's hard to warm to, but it fits the music. These aren't songs that grab and hold; they're songs that unfold, so much so that Chinese Democracy may seem a little underwhelming upon its first listen. It's not just the years of pent-up anticipation, it's that Axl spent so much time creating the music -- constructing the structure and then filling out the frame -- that there's no easy way into the album. That, combined with the realization that Axl isn't trying to reinvent GNR, but just finishing what he started on the Illusions, can make Chinese Democracy seem mildly anticlimactic, but Rose spent a decade-plus working on this -- he deserves to not have it dismissed on a cursory listen. Give it time, listening like it was 1998 and not 2008, and the album does give up some terrific music -- music that is overblown but not overdone.
True, those good moments are the songs that have kicked around the Internet for the entirety of the new millennium: the slinky, spiteful "Better," slowly building into its fury; the quite gorgeous if heavy-handed "Street of Dreams"; "There Was a Time," which overcomes its acronym and lack of chorus on its sheer drama; "Catcher in the Rye," the lightest, brightest moment here; the slow, grinding "I.R.S."; and "Madagascar," a ludicrous rueful rumination that finds space for quotations from Martin Luther King amidst its trip-hop pulse. These aren't innovations; they're extensions of "Breakdown" and "Estranged," epics that require some work to decode because Axl forces the listener to meet him on his own terms. This all-consuming artistic narcissism has become Rose's defining trait, not letting him move forward, but only to relentlessly explore the same territory over and over again. And this solipsism turns Chinese Democracy into something strangely, surprisingly simple: it won't change music, it won't change any lives, it's just 14 more songs about loneliness and persecution. Or as Axl put it in an apology for canceled concerts in 2006, "In the end, it's just an album." And it's a good album, no less and no more.

tags: guns n roses, chinese democracy, 2008, flac,

Nirvana - MTV Unplugged In New York (1994)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Acoustic Rock
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© 1994 DGC
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
If In Utero is a suicide note, MTV Unplugged in New York is a message from beyond the grave, a summation of Kurt Cobain's talents and pain so fascinating, it's hard to listen to repeatedly. Is it the choice of material or the spare surroundings that make it so effective? Well, it's certainly a combination of both, how the version of the Vaselines' "Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam" or the three covers of Meat Puppets II songs mean as much as "All Apologies" or "Something in the Way." This, in many senses, isn't just an abnormal Nirvana record, capturing them in their sincerest desire to be R.E.M. circa Automatic for the People, it's the Nirvana record that nobody, especially Kurt, wanted revealed. It's a nakedly emotional record, unintentionally so, as the subtext means more than the main themes of how Nirvana wanted to prove its worth and diversity, showcasing the depth of their songwriting. As it turns out, it accomplishes its goals rather too well; this is a band, and songwriter, on the verge of discovering a new sound and style. Then, there's the subtexts, as Kurt's hurt and suicidal impulses bubble to the surface even as he's trying to suppress them. Few records are as unblinkingly bare and naked as this, especially albums recorded by their peers. No other band could have offered covers of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World" and the folk standard "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" on the same record, turning in chilling performances of both -- performances that reveal as much as their original songs.

tags: nirvana, mtv unplugged in new york, 1994, flac,

January 28, 2017

Mount Salem - Endless (2014 Reissue)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Doom Metal
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© 2013-2014 Metal Blade Records
Review by Dom Walsh for LouderThanWar.com
Endless comes roaring at you like a rabid dog. A cacophony of guitars, drums and organ helps set the stall out immediately on the aptly titled Good Times. When this awesome mix is complemented by the glorious vocals of singer Emily Kopplin, you can tell straight away that this album is going to be good.
The Tower sees the guitars continue to snarl in a mist of reverb, creating a suitably doomy atmosphere. Around the track’s mid point the guitar part allows the band to add another facet to their sound and leads to the song’s crushing end with the drums being battered and again the vocals are blisteringly good.
A bluesier introduction adorns Lucid before it settles into another mid tempo, chugging slab of doomy rock. As the track matures, the blues feel is more prevalent as the organ adds a cold and haunting atmosphere against an increasingly heavy back drop.
Full Moon sees Kopplin  serenading your ears with a mournfully sung introduction. The guitars and drums slowly build towards the fastest paced track of the album so far. The whole track motors on and is a real neck wrecker of a track. Mescaline has a heavier harmonic feel to it, with the organ providing the mainstay of the mix. This serves as the introduction to the towering Mescaline II. The aforementioned vocals are sublime throughout and the range and delivery on Mescaline II is spine tingling. Along with a great solo to close, this is definitely one of the many highlights here.
Penultimate track, Hysteria, carries many of the same characteristics of the album and the slow, doomy chug of the guitars is one of the most Sabbath sounding moments here. Again, the organ gives a ghoulish slant to proceedings making the album an exciting and sinister listen. The End signals the album’s closure with more doom-laden worship, Mount Salem saving some of the most powerful riffs until the end to really close out the album in crushing style.
I can’t emphasise enough how wonderful the vocals are on this album. Ranging from devilish snarl to bluesy, soulful cries, it certainly helps set the album apart from your regular doom record. The guitar work is also varied throughout. Obvious influences such as Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus underpin the sound, but the skill with which the band execute their formula is excellent. This album is certainly going to be one of my highlights of the year.

WWF: We Gotta Wrestle! (Hits of The World Wrestling Federation) (1997)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Theme Music
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© 1997 Concrete Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: wwf, we gotta wrestle, hits of the world wrestling federation, 1997, flac,

Mot├Ârhead - March ├Âr Die (1992)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1992 WTG/Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
This is where everything almost went horribly wrong. Encouraged by a new distribution deal through Epic Records and his recent collaboration with old friend Ozzy Osbourne on his wildly successful No More Tears album, Mot├Ârhead's Lemmy set out to pursue commercial success like never before and, as a result, almost managed to toss their impeccable legacy in the dumpster. Sure, Mot├Ârhead (arguably the most important underground band in rock history) had flirted with accessibility before, but with 1992's March ├Âr Die, the English legends shed much of their unbridled power and skull-crushing distortion in order to break down the radio barrier once and for all. Needless to say, it didn't work in attracting new fans, and lukewarm material like "Hellraiser" (in a different version than on No More Tears), the piano- and acoustic guitar-laced "I Ain't No Nice Guy" (a duet with the Ozzman featuring Slash), and a straightforward cover of Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever" (it just sounds wrong -- maybe if they'd tripled the beat or something) had longtime fans gritting their teeth in frustration. Elsewhere, tracks like "Stand," "Bad Religion," and "Too Good to Be True" found Lemmy making a serious effort to transform his trademark croak into actual singing, and only a few numbers ("Name in Vain," the title track) bear any vague resemblance to the Mot├Ârhead of old. At the end of the day, simply attacking the band's motives may seem rather harsh (and is certainly subject to opinion), but there is no denying that March ├Âr Die ranks among Mot├Ârhead's least-celebrated offerings; nor can one ignore Lemmy's swift about-face toward more extreme fare on 1993's excellent Bastards.

tags: motorhead, mot├Ârhead, march or die,

Rage Against The Machine - The Battle of Los Angeles (1999)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Rapcore
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© 1999 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Rage Against the Machine isn't really the only metal band that matters, but their aggressive social and political activism is refreshing, especially in an age of blind (or usually self-directed) rage due to groups like Limp Bizkit, Bush, or Nine Inch Nails. Recorded in less than a month, The Battle of Los Angeles is the most focused album of the band's career, exploding from the gate and rarely letting go the whole way through. Like a few other famous revolution-in-the-head bands (most notably Minor Threat), Rage Against the Machine has always been blessed by the fact that the band is spewing just as much vitriol as its frontman. Any potential problems created here by Zack de la Rocha's one-note delivery and extremist polemics are smoothed over by songs and grooves that make it sound like the revolution really is here, from the single "Guerrilla Radio" to album highlights like "Mic Check," "Calm Like a Bomb," and "Born of a Broken Man." As on the previous two Rage Against the Machine albums, Tom Morello's roster of guitar effects and vicious riffs are nigh overpowering, and are as contagious as the band has ever been since their debut. De la Rocha is best when he has specific targets (like the government or the case against Mumia Abu Jamal), but when he attempts to cover more general societal problems, he falters. If anything less than one of the most talented and fiery bands in the music world were backing him, The Battle of Los Angeles wouldn't be nearly as high-rated as it is.

tags: rage against the machine, the battle for los angeles, 1999, flac,

January 26, 2017

Rage Against The Machine - Renegades (2000)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Rapcore
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© 2000 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Rush released after the late-2000 split between Zack de la Rocha and the rest of Rage Against the Machine, the covers album Renegades salutes the band's musical and philosophical roots, ranging from the old-school Bronx to the hard-rockin' Motor City to protest-central Greenwich Village to gangsta-ridden L.A. As could be expected, the set works best when the group focuses on material from its most recent forebears: rappers and hardcore bands. Indeed, Renegades begins with a pair of powerful hip-hop covers -- Eric B & Rakim's "Microphone Fiend" and Volume 10's "Pistol Grip Pump" -- that spotlight Rage's immense strengths: Tom Morello's clean, heavy riffing and vocalist de la Rocha's finely tuned spray of vitriol, just this side of self-righteous. Another hip-hop blast (and the one closest to home), Cypress Hill's "How I Could Just Kill a Man," is even more devastating, an easy pick for the highlight of the album. Listeners familiar with the originals, however, may have trouble with Rage's covers of EPMD's "I'm Housin'," the Stones' "Street Fighting Man," and Dylan's "Maggie's Farm," a trio of original versions whose anger and emotion were conveyed more in the lyrics than the performances. Still, drummer Brad Wilk sets an appropriately frenetic hardcore tempo for the excellent version of Minor Threat's "In My Eyes," and de la Rocha stretches out well on the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams." With just a bare few excepions, Renegades works well, in part because Rage Against the Machine is both smart enough to change very little and talented enough to make the songs its own.

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Rage Against The Machine - Rage Against The Machine (1992)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Rapcore
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© 1992 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Probably the first album to successfully merge the seemingly disparate sounds of rap and heavy metal, Rage Against the Machine's self-titled debut was groundbreaking enough when released in 1992, but many would argue that it has yet to be surpassed in terms of influence and sheer brilliance -- though countless bands have certainly tried. This is probably because the uniquely combustible creative relationship between guitar wizard Tom Morello and literate rebel vocalist Zack de la Rocha could only burn this bright, this once. While the former's roots in '80s heavy metal shredding gave rise to an inimitable array of six-string acrobatics and rhythmic special effects (few of which anyone else has managed to replicate), the latter delivered meaningful rhymes with an emotionally charged conviction that suburban white boys of the ensuing nu-metal generation could never hope to touch. As a result, syncopated slabs of hard rock insurrection like "Bombtrack," "Take the Power Back," and "Know Your Enemy" were as instantly unforgettable as they were astonishing. Yet even they paled in comparison to veritable clinics in the art of slowly mounting tension such as "Settle for Nothing," "Bullet in the Head," and the particularly venomous "Wake Up" (where Morello revises Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" riff for his own needs) -- all of which finally exploded with awesome power and fury. And even listeners who were unable (or unwilling) to fully process the band's unique clash of muscle and intellect were catered to, as RATM were able to convey their messages through stubborn repetition via the fundamental challenge of "Freedom" and their signature track, "Killing in the Name," which would become a rallying cry of disenfranchisement, thanks to its relentlessly rebellious mantra of "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!" Ultimately, if there's any disappointment to be had with this near-perfect album, it's that it still towers above subsequent efforts as the unequivocal climax of Rage Against the Machine's vision. As such, it remains absolutely essential.

tags: rage against the machine, rage against the machine album, 1992, flac,

Rage Against The Machine - Evil Empire (1996)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Rapcore
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© 1996 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Rage Against the Machine spent four years making their second album, Evil Empire. As the title suggests, their rage and contempt for the "fascist" capitalist system in America hadn't declined in the nearly half-decade they were away. Their musical approach didn't change, either. Lead vocalist Zack de la Rocha is caught halfway between the militant raps of Chuck D and the fanatical ravings of a street preacher, shouting out his simplistic, libertarian slogans over the sonically dense assault of the band. Since the band didn't perform together much after 1993, there isn't a collective advance in their musicianship. Nevertheless, guitarist Tom Morello demonstrates an impressive palette of sound, creating new textures in heavy metal, which is quite difficult. Even with Morello's studied virtuosity, the band sounds leaden, lacking the dexterity to fully execute their metal/hip-hop fusion -- they don't get into a groove; they simply pound. But that happens to fit the hysterical ravings of de la Rocha. Though his dedication to decidedly left-wing politics is admirable, his arhythmic phrasing and grating shouting cancel out any message he is trying to make. And that means Evil Empire succeeds only on the level of a sonic assault.

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Accept - Staying a Life (1990)

*U.S. pressing
Contains 15 tracks total.
Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1990 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
Shortly after Accept's inaugural split in 1990, Epic dusted off some live tapes and issued the group's first live full-length, Staying a Life. Although not the group's first-ever live release (it was predated five years earlier by the EP Kaizoku-Ban), Staying a Life does a faithful job of capturing Accept at the peak of their arena metal powers, circa their Metal Heart era. The proof why the German band was handed opening slots on quite a few popular mid-'80s tours (Kiss, Iron Maiden, etc.) is evident throughout -- rocking versions of "Metal Heart," "Screaming for a Love Bite," "Restless and Wild," and "London Leatherboys" surely got a few mullets headbanging on this fateful night. And of course, Accept's two best-known tracks -- "Fast as a Shark" and "Balls to the Wall" -- are included, as they close out the set. They may never have reached arena headlining status Stateside, but Staying a Life proves that Accept was on equal footing with just about any metal chart-topper from around this time -- especially when it came to the concert stage.

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A+ - The Latch-Key Child (1996) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 1996 Kedar Entertainment
AllMusic Review by Brad Mills
A little kid with a lot to say, A+ seems very mature for his age. He isn't exactly talking about school dances and his grades on this album, even if his name is A+. You'd think he was 25 if it wasn't for his voice and his photo on the cover of the album. Not the only one tooting his horn, industry veterans like Mobb Deep and Q-Tip show up for appearances, and -- particularly on the Mobb Deep track -- A+ delivers a few memorable verses to complement Prodigy's always present microphone dominance. Not the longest album in the world at just 13 tracks, it leaves you wondering why they didn't fill it up with a few more songs. But all in all, this is a good album; it will be interesting to see if A+ will truly develop into the prodigy he seems to be.

tags: a plus, a+, the latch key child, 1996, flac,

January 25, 2017

O.G.C. - The M-Pire Shrikez Back (1999)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
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© 1999 Duck Down/Priority Records
AllMusic Review by Matt Conaway
Pinning their hopes of rejuvenation on a core of upstart producers, O.G.C. bids farewell to the ritualistic Boot Camp Click sound which encompasses their discordant debut Da Storm. Experiencing an epiphany of sorts, O.G.C. (Starang Wondah, Louieville, and Top Dog) warm up to a realm of organic instrumentation and orchestral arrangements. Lyrically, the standard BCC curriculum of getting weeded and pursuing honeys gets monotonous for stretches. O.G.C. is strikingly more appealing when they expand upon their predictable topic matter. However, the distinctive/varying production supplied by Gray-Boy, Black-Market, and Justin Trugman manages to slightly mask that oversight, stepping up when most needed. Starang and Louieville continue to grow, and their two-man lyrical tag-team exhibition is augmented by Top Dog's high-spirited repartees. O.G.C.'s maturity is evident, and re-structuring their sound did wonders for the group's chemistry, as they begin to show signs off blossoming on their brisk follow-up.

tags: ogc, o.g.c., the m pire, empire, strikez, shrikez, the m-pire, 1999, flac,

Sugar Ray - Lemonade & Brownies (1995)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Rock, N├╝-Metal
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© 1995 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Sugar Ray's major-label debut is a competent set of alternative funk/metal, though nothing on Lemonade & Brownies is particularly distinctive.

tags: sugar ray, lemonade and brownies, 1995, flac,

Metallica - Ride The Lightning (1984) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Thrash Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1984 Elektra/Asylum Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Kill 'Em All may have revitalized heavy metal's underground, but Ride the Lightning was even more stunning, exhibiting staggering musical growth and boldly charting new directions that would affect heavy metal for years to come. Incredibly ambitious for a one-year-later sophomore effort, Ride the Lightning finds Metallica aggressively expanding their compositional technique and range of expression. Every track tries something new, and every musical experiment succeeds mightily. The lyrics push into new territory as well -- more personal, more socially conscious, less metal posturing. But the true heart of Ride the Lightning lies in its rich musical imagination. There are extended, progressive epics; tight, concise groove-rockers; thrashers that blow anything on Kill 'Em All out of the water, both in their urgency and the barest hints of melody that have been added to the choruses. Some innovations are flourishes that add important bits of color, like the lilting, pseudo-classical intro to the furious "Fight Fire with Fire," or the harmonized leads that pop up on several tracks. Others are major reinventions of Metallica's sound, like the nine-minute, album-closing instrumental "The Call of Ktulu," or the haunting suicide lament "Fade to Black." The latter is an all-time metal classic; it begins as an acoustic-driven, minor-key ballad, then gets slashed open by electric guitars playing a wordless chorus, and ends in a wrenching guitar solo over a thrashy yet lyrical rhythm figure. Basically, in a nutshell, Metallica sounded like they could do anything. Heavy metal hadn't seen this kind of ambition since Judas Priest's late-'70s classics, and Ride the Lightning effectively rewrote the rule book for a generation of thrashers. If Kill 'Em All was the manifesto, Ride the Lightning was the revolution itself.

tags: metallica, ride the lighting, 1984, flac,

Metallica - Metallica (1991)

*Also known as "The Black Album"
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1991 Elektra Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
After the muddled production and ultracomplicated song structures of ...And Justice for All, Metallica decided that they had taken the progressive elements of their music as far as they could and that a simplification and streamlining of their sound was in order. While the assessment made sense from a musical standpoint, it also presented an opportunity to commercialize their music, and Metallica accomplishes both goals. The best songs are more melodic and immediate, the crushing, stripped-down grooves of "Enter Sandman," "Sad but True," and "Wherever I May Roam" sticking to traditional structures and using the same main riffs throughout; the crisp, professional production by Bob Rock adds to their accessibility. "The Unforgiven" and "Nothing Else Matters" avoid the slash-and-burn guitar riffs that had always punctuated the band's ballads; the latter is a full-fledged love song complete with string section, which works much better than might be imagined. The song- and riff-writing slips here and there, a rare occurrence for Metallica, which some longtime fans interpreted as filler next to a batch of singles calculated for commercial success. The objections were often more to the idea that Metallica was doing anything explicitly commercial, but millions more disagreed. In fact, the band's popularity exploded so much that most of their back catalog found mainstream acceptance in its own right, while other progressively inclined speed metal bands copied the move toward simplification. In retrospect, Metallica is a good, but not quite great, album, one whose best moments deservedly captured the heavy metal crown, but whose approach also foreshadowed a creative decline.

tags: metallica, the black album, metallica album, 1991, flac,

Slum Village - Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1 (2006 Reissue)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1996-2006 Counterflow Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release 

tags: slum village, fatastic vol 1, 1996, 2006, flac,

Slum Village - Fantastic, Vol. 2 (2000)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2000 GoodVibe Recordings
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
After being talked about and awaited for months, Slum Village's Fantastic, Vol. 2 finally reached the public's ears, reinforcing the fact that the group -- and particularly producer Jay Dee -- planned to continue where A Tribe Called Quest left off. Jay Dee's solid production track record for renowned artists such as Common and Q-Tip garnered the majority of the hype for this Detroit trio's second album. He specializes in a clean, musical style of hip-hop beats with an emphasis on crisp acoustic percussion and other classic funk sounds. The synthesizer-based sounds, such as Mannie Fresh's ass-shaking electro beats, Dr. Dre's signature West Coast synth lines, and RZA's hallucinagenic orchestral ambience are nowhere to be found in Jay Dee's production. Similar to how his production looks back to a classic retro style of pre-Bernie Worrell funk, Slum Village's lyrics also have more in common with the past than the present. Gangsta motifs, violence, bling-bling, drugs, misogyny, ice, trash talking, nonsense? These topics are also notably absent here, leaving Jay Dee, T3, and Baatin to rap about less dramatic and more egotistical topics such as their skills. One can't help but notice that Slum Village sounds strikingly similar to A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and Common, which isn't surprising considering the fact that Jay Dee produced all three artists. The problem lies in the fact that Slum Village isn't nearly as interesting as lyricists and their album follows rather than precedes these other groups. If Fantastic, Vol. 2 had hit the streets in the mid to late '90s rather than in 2000, it would have been a landmark album with Jay Dee's signature neo-JB's hip-hop. Unfortunately, his sound isn't new anymore, and though many may like the fact that Slum Village doesn't rap about decadent topics, one often finds Eminem's psychosis, Easy-E's promiscuousness, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's odes to bud, and DMX's inner conflicts more entertaining than Slum Village's mundane topics. In the end, no matter how much one hears Jay Dee's squeaky clean production, it never gets old, justifying the hype surrounding Fantastic, Vol. 2 and making it an exciting record for anyone in love with purist hip-hop.

Madonna - Music (2000)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop
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© 2000 Maverick, Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Filled with vocoders, stylish neo-electro beats, dalliances with trip-hop, and, occasionally, eerie synthesized atmospherics, Music blows by in a kaleidoscopic rush of color, technique, style, and substance. It has so many layers that it's easily as self-aware and earnest as Ray of Light, where her studiousness complemented a record heavy on spirituality and reflection. Here, she mines that territory occasionally, especially as the record winds toward its conclusion, but she applies her new tricks toward celebrations of music itself. That's not only true of the full-throttle dance numbers but also for ballads like "I Deserve It" and "Nobody's Perfect," where the sentiments are couched in electronic effects and lolling, rolling beats. Ultimately, that results in the least introspective or revealing record Madonna has made since Like a Prayer, yet that doesn't mean she doesn't invest herself in the record. Working with a stable of producers, she has created an album that is her most explicitly musical and restlessly creative since, well, Like a Prayer. She may have sacrificed some cohesion for that willful creativity but it's hard to begrudge her that, since so much of the album works. If, apart from the haunting closer "Gone," the Orbit collaborations fail to equal Ray of Light or "Beautiful Stranger," they're still sleekly admirable, and they're offset by the terrific Guy Sigsworth/Mark "Spike" Stent midtempo cut "What It Feels Like for a Girl" and Madonna's thriving partnership with Mirwais. This team is responsible for the heart of the record, with such stunners as the intricate, sensual, folk-psych "Don't Tell Me," the eerily seductive "Paradise (Not for Me)," and the thumping title track, which sounds funkier, denser, sexier with each spin. Whenever she works with Mirwais, Music truly comes alive with the spark and style.

tags: madonna, music, 2000, flac,