March 31, 2017

Ciara - The Evolution (2006)

*European pressing. 
Contains 2 bonus tracks.
20 tracks total
Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
Label Number: 88697056852

© 2006 LaFace/Zomba Label Group
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Evolution is a slow process, so it shouldn't be startling that The Evolution is not a quantum leap forward from Goodies. Ciara's second album, The Evolution is held together by a handful of immaterial monologues that would be best left to an interview disc. Take "The Evolution of Music," where she states, "I feel like music is so different than what it used to be, and because of that, I was inspired to do something different this time around." And then in comes "Promise," yet another song referencing Kraftwerk and Zapp, and it also takes cues from prime Janet Jackson and Aaliyah -- so, no, it's not different at all. Make no mistake, though. The song is tremendous, one of the sexiest, slow-tempo, non-breakup songs of the past ten years. Yet, for all the talk of developing and being different, one might expect an album not as firmly rooted in electro and early '80s R&B as Goodies. (Even the album's sleek cover, somewhere between Robocop and the Pointer Sisters' Break Out, has a devolved look.) Those who can disregard the discrepancies between the pronouncements and the actual content will find an album that's on equal footing with Goodies. With the exception of "Promise," The Evolution lacks clear-cut highlights on the level of "Goodies," "1, 2 Step," and "Oh," but there are fewer outright disposables. Ciara and her songwriting partners' injection of a little more substance into the songs tends to pay off, as on "Like a Boy" ("What if I had a thing on the side, made you cry?/Would the rules change up, or would they still apply?"), while "My Love" and "So Hard" also surpass the aching and breaking moments on the debut. As expected, there are plenty of tracks geared toward letting loose and dancing, and most of them do deliver, even if they don't seem quite as fresh as Ciara's past hits.

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Heart - Passionworks (1983)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock, Pop Rock
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© 1983-1987 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
1983's Passionworks marked the end of an era for Heart; it was the last album that the Wilson sisters recorded for Epic, where they had recorded late-'70s classics like Little Queen and Dog & Butterfly. Unfortunately, Heart's relationship with Epic had turned sour by 1983; in a 1987 interview, Ann Wilson asserted that Epic didn't do nearly enough to promote either Passionworks or 1982's Private Audition. But all certainly wasn't lost; at Capitol, Heart enjoyed a major revitalization in 1985 -- both commercially and creatively. Although Passionworks was recorded under less-than-ideal circumstances, it isn't a bad album. Passionworks, which was produced by Keith Olsen, didn't go down in history as one of Heart's essential releases -- it isn't in a class with Dreamboat Annie, Little Queen, Bad Animals, or 1985's self-titled Heart, but it isn't an album that the Wilson sisters should be ashamed of either. Passionworks gets off to an impressive start with the hit "How Can I Refuse," an arena rock jewel. Most of the songs that follow aren't as strong, but they're decent. While "Sleep Alone," "Blue Guitar," and "Ambush" aren't masterpieces, they're likable examples of '80s hard rock/arena rock. "Allies," meanwhile, is a glossy power ballad that was written by Journey's Jonathan Cain and should have become a hit. In 1983, Cain's song was perfect for Heart because by that time, their ballads had become much more amplified. While early Heart ballads like "Dream of the Archer" and "How Deep It Goes" had a pastoral, acoustic-oriented folk-rock outlook, the Wilson sisters became masters of the high-volume power ballad in the '80s. Passionworks isn't recommended to casual listeners, but serious Heart devotees will find it to be an enjoyable way for the Wilson sisters to end their Epic period.

tags: heart, passionworks, passion works, 1983, flac,

Nine Inch Nails - The Fragile (1999)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Industrial Rock, Alternative Rock
Label Number: 0694904732

© 1999 Nothing/Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
As the double-disc The Fragile unfurls, all of Nine Inch Nails' trademarks -- gargantuan, processed guitars, ominous electro rhythms, near-ambient keyboards, Trent Reznor's shredded vocals and tortured words -- are unveiled, all sounding pretty much how they did on The Downward Spiral. Upon closer inspection, there are new frills, yet these aren't apparent without digging -- and what's on the surface isn't necessarily inviting, either. There is nothing as rhythmic or catchy as "Closer," nothing as jarring as the piano chorus of "March of the Pigs," no ballad as naked as "Hurt." When Reznor does try for something immediate and visceral, he sounds recycled. Fortunately, The Fragile lives up to its title once the first disc is over. There are some detours into noisy bluster (some, like the Marilyn Manson dis "Starfuckers, Inc.," work quite well) but they're surrounded by long, evocative instrumental sections that highlight Reznor's gifts for arrangement. Whenever Reznor crafts delicate, alternately haunting and pretty soundscapes or interesting sonic juxtapositions, The Fragile is compelling. Since they provide a change of pace, the bursts of industrial noise assist the flow of the album, which never feels indulgent, even though it runs over 100 minutes. Still, The Fragile is ultimately a letdown. There's no denying that it's often gripping, offering odd and interesting variations on NIN themes, but that's the problem -- they're just variations, not progressions. Considering that it arrives five years after Spiral, that is a disappointment. It's easy to tell where the time went -- Reznor's music is immaculately crafted and arranged, with every note and nuance gliding into the next -- but he spent more time constructing surfaces than songs. Those surfaces can be enticing but since it's just surface, The Fragile winds up being vaguely unsatisfying.

tags: nine inch nails, the fragile, 1999, flac,

March 30, 2017

Ciara - Goodies (2004)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
Label Number: 82876-62819-2

© 2004 LaFace Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
Thanks to a few productions by hitmakers Lil Jon and Jazze Pha, there are indeed some Goodies to be found on Ciara's debut album, even if the young dance-pop singer does little to distinguish herself from the legion of fellow young dance-pop singers filling the urban American airwaves. The title track is far and away the highlight here, one of seemingly countless Lil Jon songs to become hits in summer 2004 (others including Usher's "Yeah!," Trillville's "Neva Eva," Lil Scrappy's "No Problem," Pitbull's "Culo," and Petey Pablo's "Freek-a-Leek"). "Goodies" is fairly similar to these songs, except that it's sung by a young girl. In fact, the song is an apparent response to "Freek-a-Leek," employing a near-identical beat and the services of that song's rapper, Petey Pablo. The difference is that while "Freek-a-Leek" took the hardcore rap perspective of courtship, boasting of Petey's sexual exploits and how he can provide all a woman could possibly want physically, Ciara takes the contemporary R&B perspective, boasting contrarily that she has what all the guys want but won't be exploited: "I bet you want the goodies/Bet you thought about it/Got you all hot and bothered/Mad 'cause I talk around it/If you're looking for the goodies/Keep on looking 'cause they stay in the jar." It's a simple song, yes, but it's quite a rousing album opener. From there, the next four songs -- "1, 2 Step," "Thug Style," "Hotline," "Oh" -- are good, if not great, as executive producer Jazze Pha serves up some first-rate beats and catchy hooks here and there. But just as Beyoncé's Dangerously in Love descended into boilerplate balladry during its second half, Goodies unfortunately follows suit, bringing the initial festivities to a cloying conclusion. In the end, the beats of Lil Jon and Jazze Pha are the true Goodies here. Ciara is likeable enough, especially on the dance songs, where she resembles a young Janet Jackson, not so much actually singing as projecting a personality onto the productions. However, when she turns to run-of-the-mill ballads on the album's second half, she seems just as faceless as the songs themselves, lacking panache and, at times, personality.

tags: ciara, goodies, 2004, flac,

March 27, 2017

Heart - Heart (1985) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock, Pop Rock
Label Number: CDP 7 46157 2
☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1985 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Heart was pretty much considered washed up when they released Heart in 1985. They learned a few important things while they had taken a short sabbatical -- they knew that hooks were important and they knew they could play up their looks for MTV. So, they delivered both with Heart, giving their audience anthemic hooks and tightly corseted bosoms, leading to the most popular album they ever had. This doesn't mean it's the best, since its calculated mainstream bent may disarm some long-term fans, but it is true that they do this better than many of their peers, not just because they have good polished material from professional songwriters but because they can deliver this material professionally themselves. Yes, "These Dreams," "Never," and "What About Love" don't quite fit into the classic Heart mode, but they are good mid-'80s mainstream material, delivered as flawlessly as possible. There's still a lot of filler on this record, but the best moments are among the best mainstream AOR of its era.

tags: heart, heart album, 1985, flac,

Heart - Little Queen (2004 Remastered Edition)

*Contains 2 bonus tracks.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock, Folk Rock
Label Number: 508342 2
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© 1977-2004 Epic, Legacy Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
After acquiring a substantial following with Dreamboat Annie, Heart solidified its niche in the hard rock and arena rock worlds with the equally impressive Little Queen. Once again, loud-and-proud, Led Zeppelin-influenced hard rock was the thing that brought Heart the most attention. But while "Barracuda" and "Kick It Out" are the type of sweaty rockers one thought of first when Heart's name was mentioned, hard rock by no means dominates this album. In fact, much of Little Queen consists of such folk-influenced, acoustic-oriented fare as "Treat Me Well" and "Cry to Me." Anyone doubting just how much Heart's ballads have changed over the years need only play "Dream of the Archer" next to a high-volume power ballad like "Wait for an Answer" from 1987's Bad Animals.

tags: heart, little queen, 1977, 2004, remaster, flac,

March 26, 2017

DIO - The Last In Line (1984) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal
Label Number: 9 25100-2
☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1984 Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Following the extremely warm reception given his self-named band's well-deserving debut album, Holy Diver, Ronnie James Dio figured there was no point in messing with a winning formula, and decided to play it safe with 1984's sophomore effort, The Last in Line -- with distinctly mixed results. Although technically cut from the same cloth as those first album nuggets, fist-pumping new songs like "We Rock," and "I Speed at Night" curiously went from good to tiresome after just a few spins (a sign that the songwriting clichés were starting to pile up...read on); and the otherwise awesome, seven-minute epic, "Egypt (The Chains Are On)," inexplicably lost it's strikingly sinister main riff halfway through, in what sounds like a mastering snafu of some kind. On the upside, more dramatic, mid-paced numbers such as the title track, "One Night in the City," and "Eat Your Heart Out" -- as well as the driving "Evil Eyes" -- delivered enough compelling riffs and melodies to outweigh Ronnie's once endearing, but now increasingly troublesome repetition of words like "rainbow," "fire," and "stone" in seemingly every song. Finally, the distinctly more commercial pairing of heavy rocker "Breathless" and the power ballad/single "Mystery" gave undisguised notice (along with the slightly sleeker production throughout and more generous keyboards from new member Claude Schnell) of Dio's intention to broaden their audience by tapping into the rising tide of pop-metal. This would bring dire circumstances on their next album, Sacred Heart, but despite the telltale signs of decline cited above, anyone who loved Holy Diver will likely enjoy The Last in Line nearly as much.

tags: dio, DIO, the last in line, ronnie james, 1984, flac,

March 25, 2017

DIO - Dream Evil (1987) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1987 Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Rob Theakston
Dream Evil is by no means a departure from the Dio formula that was so successful for his first three solo albums. All of the elements that made them so successful are yet again retained here. However, what makes things different this time around is that Dio has more of a melodious side to him, which he puts use here rather than relying on the riffs and delivery he learned at the school of Sabbath. He even touches on the power ballad (a sure sign that the style had fully infiltrated metal) with "All the Fool Sailed Away." The title track and "Sunset Superman" also proved to be two of Dio's most well-known, and most loved songs in his massive catalog. Not an essential release, but one that diehard fans will be sure to want in their collection.

tags: dio, DIO, ronnie james, dream evil, 1987,

DIO - Sacred Heart (1985)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1985 Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Although relatively strong sales at the time of its release would appear to refute this claim, Dio's third album in three years, 1985's Sacred Heart, was a terribly divisive affair, and is largely viewed as a disappointment in retrospect. This is because, although many brand-new yet fickle-minded fans were attracted by the album's noticeably more commercial hard rock songwriting, almost as many of Dio's most loyal, long-serving supporters were turned off by this new direction -- as well as the already stagnant clichés being recycled from prior triumphs. If only writer's block had been to blame, but the unnecessary live audience added to the album's obviously self-referencing opener, "King of Rock and Roll," seemed to point to a single-minded and egotistical leader instead. So when he wasn't putting his ever more despondent (and soon to be terminated) henchmen through the motions on rote metallic anthems like the title track, "Like the Beat of a Heart," and "Fallen Angels," singer Ronnie James Dio seemed intent on strangling every last creative spark out of them in a bid to score a pop-metal hit. Among the top candidates, the synth-drunk "Hungry for Heaven" and the deplorable "Shoot Shoot" proved especially forgettable and contrived, and even though "Rock 'n' Roll Children" succeeded in cropping up frequently on MTV at least, Ronnie's distinct lack of sex appeal (not to mention his 40-plus years of age!) killed any possibility of true crossover success in image-conscious America. In the end, selling out with Sacred Heart plunged Dio's career into a steep decline from which it would never entirely recover.

tags: dio, sacred heart, 1985, DIO, ronnie james, flac,

March 23, 2017

Nickelback - All The Right Reasons (2005)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Post Grunge
Label Number: 168 618 109-2
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© 2005 Roadrunner Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
With their fourth album, All the Right Reasons, Nickelback ditch any pretense of being a grunge band and finally acknowledge they're a straight-up heavy rock band. Not that they've left the angst of grunge behind: they're a modern rock band living in a post-grunge world, so there are lots of tortured emotions threaded throughout the 11 songs here. But where their previous albums roiled with anger -- their breakthrough "How You Remind Me" was not affectionate, it was snide and cynical -- there's a surprisingly large sentimental streak running throughout All the Right Reasons, and it's not just limited to heart-on-sleeve power ballads like "Far Away" and "Savin' Me," the latter being the latest entry in their soundalike sweepstakes. No, lead singer/songwriter Chad Kroeger is in a particularly pensive mood here, looking back fondly at his crazy times in high school on "Photograph" ("Look at this photograph/Every time I do it makes me laugh/How did our eyes get so red?/And what the hell is on Joey's head?"), lamenting the murder of Dimebag Darrell on "Side of a Bullet" (where a Dimebag solo is overdubbed), and, most touching of all, imagining "the day when nobody died" on "If Everyone Cared" (which would be brought about "If everyone cared and nobody cried/If everyone loved and nobody lied"). Appropriately enough for an album that finds Kroeger's emotional palette opening up, Nickelback try a few new things here, adding more pianos, keyboards, and acoustic guitars to not just their ballads, but a few of their big, anthemic rockers; they even sound a little bit light and limber on "Someone That You're With," the fastest tune here and a bit of relief after all the heavy guitars. All this makes for a more varied Nickelback album, but it doesn't really change their essence. Sure, they stretch a little bit, but they still favor clumsy, plodding riffs, still incessantly rewrite the same chords and melody, still harmonize exactly the same way on every song, Kroeger still sounds as if he's singing with a hernia, he still writes shockingly stupid lines that make you long for the days of such subtle double-entendres as "she's using her head again" (such as "She'd be pissed if she could see the parts of you that I've been kissing," "It's just a little hard to leave/When you're going down on me" -- and, mind you, this album does not carry a Parental Advisory sticker, even though "a**holes" is prominently used in two songs), and despite the attempted sarcasm of "Rockstar," he still shows no discernible sense of humor. Which means, despite all their newly developed relative nuances, Nickelback remain unchanged: they're still unspeakably awful.

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March 20, 2017

DIO - Holy Diver (1983) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1983-1986 Mercury
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
After playing a major role in five positively classic heavy metal albums of the late '70s and early '80s (three with Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow and two with Black Sabbath), it seemed that singer Ronnie James Dio could truly do no wrong. So it wasn't all that surprising -- impressive, but not surprising -- when he struck gold yet again when launching his solo vehicle, Dio, via 1983's terrific Holy Diver album. Much like those two, hallowed Sabbath LPs, Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules, Holy Diver opened at full metallic throttle with the frenetic "Stand Up and Shout," before settling into a dark, deliberate, and hypnotic groove for the timelessly epic title track -- a worthy successor to glorious triumphs past like Rainbow's "Stargazer" and the Sabs' "Sign of the Southern Cross." But subsequent metal anthems like "Straight Through the Heart," "Invisible," and the lycanthrope lullaby "Shame on the Night" were no less inspired; and by injecting uncommonly catchy melodies into the heavy rock riffery still dominating more accessible numbers such as "Gypsy," "Caught in the Middle," and hit single "Rainbow in the Dark" (where the singer himself played rather spotty keyboards), Dio proved himself perfectly capable of competing with the increasingly commercial hard rock fashions soon to come. Although most fans would agree that Dio would arguably never again replicate the simply sublime symbiosis of beauty and brawn achieved by the all-time standout "Don't Talk to Strangers." And, to be fair, aside from Ronnie's unquestionably stellar songwriting, Holy Diver's stunning quality and consistency owed much to his carefully chosen bandmates, including powerhouse drummer (and fellow Sabbath survivor) Vinny Appice, veteran bassist Jimmy Bain, and a phenomenal find in young Irish guitarist Vivian Campbell, whose tastefully pyrotechnic leads helped make this the definitive Dio lineup. So, too, is Holy Diver still the undisputed highlight of Dio's career, and, indeed, one of the finest pure heavy metal albums of the 1980s.

tags: dio, holy diver, 1983, flac, ronnie james,

March 19, 2017

Poison - Poison'd! (2007)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 2007 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Not quite a new album and not quite a comp, Poison'd! is a collection of covers from Poison, many recorded in 2006 and 2007 with producer Don Was, but also some pulled from previous albums dating as far back as Look What the Cat Dragged In and Open Up and Say...Ahh!. To the band's credit, it doesn't always sound like the music was recorded 20 years apart. Was' production is punchier, beefier than the early stuff, and Brett Michaels' voice is, conversely, a little rougher, but this is still recognizably the work of Poison, a band that never seemed all that heavy no matter how loud the guitars roar, a band that never seemed all that dirty no matter how much they wanted to wallow in sleaze. This inadvertent lightness means that they sound as convincing covering Loggins & Messina's "Your Mama Don't Dance" or Jim Croce's "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" as they do singing Grand Funk's "We're An American Band" or Kiss' "Rock and Roll All Night," but it does rob Bowie's "Suffragette City" of some needed muscle and turns the Who's "Squeeze Box" into the insufferable cloying novelty it always wanted to be. But there are also some nice surprises along the way, particularly in the spirited, propulsive version of Tom Petty's "I Need to Know," the subdued country twang on the Marshall Tucker Band's "Can't You See" (reminiscent of Michaels solo work) and, especially, the fizzy punch of Sweet's "Little Willie," one of the first times Poison had ever earned the glam appellation they so often receive. So, Poison'd! is an uneven lot -- as any theme-based comp spanning 20 years would be -- but it's more fun than any new Poison album in recent memory and more fun than it should be, even if it's not quite as much fun as it could have been. But that's the perennial Poison problem -- the image always was more fun than the reality.

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Poison - Swallow This Live (1991)

*Double live album C.D. 
Contains 4 studio tracks.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Glam Metal
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© 1991 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
An energetic double-disc live set that touches on nearly all of the group's hits up through Flesh and Blood, plus many of their better album tracks, Swallow This Live is of definite interest to the devoted Poison fan. Of course, it's largely over the top and has moments of excess -- the 6:30 drum solo and the 9:30 guitar solo being prime examples -- but that nicely sums up the spirit of the time period. Four new studio tracks are included as an added enticement.

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March 17, 2017

Poison - Hollyweird (2002)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 2002 Cyanide Music
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It was inevitable that the original lineup of Poison would make a comeback effort in 2002 -- they had spent so long on the VH1 airwaves, they had set the stage for a storming return. Like many bands of their era, they were smart enough to make the comeback on a small indie label, which meant they had little pressure to conform to the shifting tastes of their time, and instead could offer a new record in their old style. And that's exactly what Hollyweird (wonderful title, eh?) is -- a return to the sound of Open Up and Say Ahh, but by an older, wiser, more ambitious band. "Ambitious" shouldn't be read as if the group has gone prog, although at times they can have the pomp and circumstance of Meat Loaf ("Wishful Thinkin'" has a chorus straight out of Jim Steinman). Instead, they're sprinkling serious subjects among the party anthems, in an attempt to draw a portrait of their hometown. Their (largely) serious intentions are given weight by their leanest, hardest production yet, the first to really showcase the band as a rock band, not a pop-metal outfit. The thing is, it all works, and the result is one of Poison's best records, if not their best; it says a lot that by far the worst moment is not an original, but an awful cover of a Pete Townshend song (granted, it's "Squeeze Box," the worst song he ever wrote). It may not really appeal to anybody but the converted -- despite their wide exposure on VH1, only the diehards are likely to buy a Poison album in 2002 -- but the weird thing is, this would be the album to convince doubters that the band is actually pretty good after all.

tags: poison, hollyweird, 2002, flac,

Poison - Crack a Smile... And More! (2000)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock
Label Number: 72435-24781-2-5
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© 2000 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
While the Greatest Hits 1986-1996 CD featured two newly recorded songs, Crack a Smile...And More is the first album of (mostly) new Poison material since 1993's Native Tongue. The main body of the album was recorded in late 1994 but not released until 2000, and while it features the two new Greatest Hits songs, the rest of the repertoire has never appeared on any previous Poison album. There are also four previously unreleased outtakes -- three from the Crack a Smile sessions, one from Open Up and Say...Ahh! -- and four songs done for a 1990 MTV Unplugged special ("Your Mama Don't Dance," "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," "Unskinny Bop," "Talk Dirty to Me"). It's easy to argue that, whether heard in the musical climate of 1994 or 2000, Poison sounds a little ridiculous singing pop-metal tunes with sleazy, often immature lyrics. But that misses the point -- Poison was always at least a little bit ridiculous, and that's precisely what made their music so much fun. And these songs are surprisingly up to par, as is the slightly awkward yet endearing version of "Cover of the Rolling Stone" -- maybe there's no one killer single here, but Crack a Smile is a consistently enjoyable listen. Poison knows exactly what they're doing, and they have enough self-deprecating humor to realize that it's "Tragically Unhip" (as one song title puts it), but they don't care -- they're making this music just for fun. Longtime fans should be quite pleased that this effort is finally seeing the light of day, because it captures Poison doing what they've always been best at -- and they're finally content with that.

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March 16, 2017

Poison - Flesh & Blood (1990)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Glam Metal
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© 1990 Enigma/Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by John Book
On their third album, vocalist Bret Michaels puts in his best performance. "Unskinny Bop" and the anthemic "Something to Believe In" were both Top Ten hits.

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Poison - Native Tongue (1993)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Glam Metal, Hard Rock
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© 1993 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Ditching most of their party anthems, as well as guitarist C.C. Deville because he allegedly wasn't up to par, Poison adds guitar whiz Richie Kotzen and makes a bid for respect. Leader Bret Michaels has decided to accentuate the populist strains of ballads like "Something to Believe In" throughout Native Tongue. It often falls short -- Kotzen's playing is too proficient for the lite metal hooks that the rest of the band have mastered -- but Poison gets points for trying, and they do come up with some tracks, like the single "Stand," that could stand with some of their previous anthems.

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March 15, 2017

Poison - Look What The Cat Dragged In (1986) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Glam Metal
Label Number: CDP 7 46735 2
☠: Selected by Lass
© 1986 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Poison's debut album took its cues from the big, anthemic pop hooks of Def Leppard and the rebellious street-tough posturing of Mötley Crüe, as well as a raunchy, adolescent obsession with sex. But Poison really carved out their niche as the ultimate glam metal band, using tight-assed boogie and over-the-top visual extravagance -- costumes, makeup, teased hair, and so on -- to an even greater extent than most of their contemporaries. It was derivative and formulaic, to be sure, but Poison wholeheartedly embraced that formula from the beginning with a conviction often missing in their peers, and it's that ridiculous, good-time excess that keeps Look What the Cat Dragged In's catchiest songs, especially the party anthems "Talk Dirty to Me" and "I Want Action," just as much fun today, if not more so.

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Poison - Open Up And Say… Ahh! (1988) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Glam Metal
Label Number: CDP 7 48493 2
☠: Selected by Lass
© 1988 Capitol/Enigma Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Poison's best album still has a bit of filler that fails to deliver the big hooks and catchy riffs of their best material; when that happens, Bret Michaels' affected "rawk & rowl" singing accent begins to grate. But thankfully, that doesn't happen very often on Open Up and Say...Ahh!, which solidified the group's status as hair metal's top party band. The ballad "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," Poison's only number one hit, and the Top Ten "Nothin' But a Good Time" became their most widely recognized signature songs; a cover of Loggins & Messina's "Your Mama Don't Dance" also hit the Top Ten, and the sometimes-overlooked "Fallen Angel," one of their best songs, got plenty of MTV airplay. But the agreeable raunch of album tracks like "Love on the Rocks," "Good Love," and "Look But You Can't Touch" helps make Open Up and Say...Ahh! Poison's best overall album.

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Ramones - Brain Drain (1989)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Punk Rock
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© 1989 Sire Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Though it contains one of the Ramones' biggest radio hits, "Pet Sematary" (written for Stephen King's movie of the same name), 1989's Brain Drain finds the "bruthas" from Queens at an all-time inspirational low. And since the aforementioned track is actually reviled by most of the band's hardcore fans, the listener has to make do with opener "I Believe in Miracles" and closer "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)," which bookend the amazingly dull tracks in between with the record's only bright moments. The final Ramones album recorded for Sire Records (their label from day one), Brain Drain was sadly also the last to feature bassist and creative leader Dee Dee Ramone.

tags: ramones, brain drain, 1989, flac,

March 12, 2017

Backstreet Boys - Black & Blue (Special Edition) (2000) ☠

*U.K. special edition. 
Contains 2 bonus tracks.
15 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop
Label Number: 9221172
☠: Selected by Lass
© 2000 Jive Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
When 'N Sync usurped the Backstreet Boys' record of number of albums sold in a single week early in 2000, it had to hurt the Backstreets, since it was played in the press as if they had lost the teen pop throne. By the time the group released their third album, Black & Blue, Thanksgiving week 2000, 'N Sync was still popular, but the arc of No Strings Attached illustrated that they were weak where the Backstreets were strong -- namely, they couldn't really deliver the seductive mid-tempo pop tunes and ballads that were the backbone of the Boys' crossover success. Songs like "Shape of My Heart," which flows as gracefully as "I Want It That Way," prove that the Backstreet Boys do teen pop ballads better than anyone, but what's interesting about Black & Blue is how aggressively they protect their territory. Of course, it's relative protection, since they, like 'N Sync and Britney Spears, work with Max Martin, the man behind the biggest hits by all three artists. Consequently, it's not a coincidence that "Get Another Boyfriend" is a dead ringer for "It's Gonna Be Me" crossed with "Baby One More Time," but what gives Black & Blue character is that it's clear that the Backstreets want to remain kings of their world. So, the ballads are smoother than ever, and their dance numbers hit harder, all in an attempt to keep their throne. It works, even if it takes a couple spins before the singles stand out, since the Backstreets' material and voices are stronger than that of their peers, adding up to state of the art teen-pop.

tags: backstreet boys, black and blue, special edition, 2000, flac,

March 11, 2017

Janet Jackson - All For You (2001)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B, Pop
Label Number: 7243 8 10144 2 4
.FLAC via Florenfile
.AAC 256 kbps via Florenfile


© 2001 Virgin Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The Velvet Rope was a fairly bold move on Janet Jackson's part, as she got seriously sexy -- too serious, actually, since it had a fairly bitter tone, underscored by hints of perversity. Four years later, marked by one hidden marriage revealed through a divorce, Janet returned with All for You, an album that is as about sex as much as The Velvet Rope, yet there's a key difference -- it feels sexy, not pornographic. With her trusty collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in tow, she's created a record that's luxurious and sensual, spreading leisurely over its 70 minutes, luring you in even when you know better. And there are certainly moments that make you wish you knew better. For one, it's plotted like The Velvet Rope, filled with skits and deliberately recalling the record with its obsession with flesh and how it builds on '70s soul and soft rock. This time around, instead of Joni Mitchell, she appropriates America's "Ventura Highway" for "Someone to Call My Lover," one of the record's best cuts, and "interpolates" Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" on "Son of a Gun," with Simon singing and...well, I guess you could call it rapping...right along. The twist is, this is an anti-music industry song and a particularly foul-mouthed entry on the album, sitting comfortably alongside another industry song, the slow groove "Truth." And that fills out the three main themes of the album -- divorce, industry, and sex -- with a little bit of love on the side. These keep things humming throughout this overly sultry, overlong album, which intrigues with its very texture even as it lulls at its length. After all, there's a lot to be said for texture, and All for You is alluring, easily enveloping the listener. Though it's hardly as explicit as The Velvet Rope, apart from a section where she proclaims "I just want to suck you, taste you, ride you, feel you, make you come -- come inside of me" (mind you, this album did not have a parental advisory sticker on its first pressings), this is her sexiest-sounding record, thanks to Jam and Lewis' silky groove and her breathy delivery, two things that make the record palatable throughout too many spoken interludes and songs that just don't quite click. Even if there is a fair share of filler, this is hardly as strained as The Velvet Rope (though in many respects, it's every bit as self-conscious), and there's an ease to its construction, topped off by such songs as "All for You" and "Doesn't Really Matter" that maintain Janet, Jam, and Lewis' reputation as the leading lights of contemporary urban soul. It'd be nicer if the album was leaner, concentrating on just the great songs, but indulgence is what this record encourages. Janet sprawls out throughout the album, indulging her whims, desires, and fantasies, but -- fortunately for us -- her indulgences are alluring in their self-absorption. Of course, it helps to have Jam and Lewis on your side to articulate your indulgence.

tags: janet jackson, all for you, 2001, flac,