March 31, 2017

Ciara - The Evolution (2006)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 2006 LaFace Records
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.

tags: ciara, the evolution, 2006, flac,

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
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© 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
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© 2004 Sho'nuff/LaFace/Zomba 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,

Sons of Intellect - Insightful Comprehentions (1997)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1997 Omega Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: sons of intellect, insightful comprehentions, 1997, flac,

VKR - Hasta La Viktoria (1998)

Country: Spain
Language: Spanish (Castellano)
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1998 Zona Bruta Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: vkr, hasta la viktoria, los verdaderos kreyentes de la religion del hip hop, spain, 1998, espana, españa,

March 28, 2017

IV My People - Zone (2002)

Country:France
Language: French
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2002 IV My People Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

IV My People - IV My People: E.P. (1999)

Country: France
Language: French (Le Français)
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1999 IV My People Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: iv my people, iv my people ep, 1999, flac, for my people,

March 27, 2017

B.G. Knocc Out & Dresta - Real Brothas (1995)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap, G-Funk
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© 1995 Def Jam Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
B.G. Knocc Out & Dresta's debut album Real Brothas offers a slice of lean, stripped-down gangsta rap, but the group doesn't offer enough variation from the genre to make it a consistently compelling listen.

tags: bg knocc out, dresta, bg knocc out & dresta, real brothas, 1995,

Heart - Heart (1985) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock, Pop Rock
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☠: 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.

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Heart - Little Queen (2004 Remastered Edition)

*Contains 2 bonus tracks.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock, Folk Rock
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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,

Survivor - Caught In The Game (1983)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1983-1987 Scotti Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Mike DeGagne
Caught in the Game had Survivor focusing on a harder rock & roll sound, with greater emphasis stemming from the guitar and percussion, but this new formula didn't fare well commercially and the band failed to put any of the album's songs onto the charts. With Frankie Sullivan finally expressing himself with his guitar playing, the album does manage to establish a vibrant and dominant punch through most of the cuts, but because of this, there's a shortage of musical flow and melodic consistency that becomes apparent after the first few tracks. Efforts such as "What Do You Really Think" and "I Never Stopped Loving You" are Survivor's best examples of their straight-ahead rock fair, but they're canceled out by non-abrasive fillers like "Slander" and "Santa Ana Winds," which have the band playing well below their capacity. After this album, Survivor replaced vocalist Dave Bickler with the more inspired-sounding Jimi Jamison. The album that followed, 1984's Vital Signs, had the band playing clean-cut radio-friendly rock, and two of the three singles released from the album made it into the Top Ten. Survivor encountered further success with their new vocalist and their future albums had more of a congenial pop/rock flair to them, which was apparent even on the releases that didn't net the band any charted singles. None of Caught in the Game's tracks appear on Survivor's most thorough hits package entitled Fire in Your Eyes: Greatest Hits, an essential 18-track compilation released in 2001.

March 26, 2017

Souls of Mischief - No Man's Land (1995)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1995 Jive Records
AllMusic Review by Chris Witt
After the critical and underground success of the Souls of Mischief's debut, 93 'Til Infinity, expectations were high for the group's sophomore release. The release of No Man's Land in 1995 revealed a greatly changed Souls of Mischief, and fans and critics alike turned their backs on the group. Gone is the youthful giddiness of the debut; in its place is confrontation. Instead of detailing their youthful misadventures with drink and around the way girls, Souls of Mischief contemplate groupies, overzealous hip-hop heads, and success or the lack of it. No Man's Land is laced with touches of anger and bitterness. The change in production style is even more shocking than the change in attitude. The golden funk of 93 'Til Infinity has been replaced with muddier, harsher beats. While the complex layering of drum breaks and jazz samples is still there, the effect is one of paranoia rather than of wild extroversion. Once the surprise wears off, No Man's Land reveals itself to be a solid hip-hop album, despite the cool welcome it first received. While Souls of Mischief's second album is certainly a notch below 93 'Til Infinity, it deserves more attention and respect than it has been accorded.

tags: souls of mischief, no mans land, 1995, flac,

Survivor - Premonition (1981)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1981-1987 Scotti Bros. Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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Survivor - Eye of The Tiger (1982) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1982-1985 Scotti Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
1982 was an interesting year for mainstream rock. Listeners were still a few years away from the chart-topping pop-metal bands, and a few years removed from the oft-indulgent '70s rock era. As a result, people were left with an era that was mostly populated by bands that wore headbands and largely modeled their sound after Foreigner. In other words -- bands that attempted to appeal to both the pop and rock audiences, by combining arena-worthy choruses and tough guitar riffs, topped off with a healthy scoop of melody. A perfect example would be Survivor, and their third release overall, Eye of the Tiger. With the group's first two releases barely causing a ripple on the charts, it was Tiger that catapulted the band to the top, thanks to the chart-topping title track, which was used as the theme song to the hit movie Rocky III the same year. Despite this, the Eye of the Tiger album is often overlooked, even though it almost topped the charts as well (peaking at number two). The reason for this was that while the group managed to appeal to both aforementioned audiences -- as evidenced by the Zeppelin-esque "Hesitation Dance" and the power ballad "I'm Not That Man Anymore" -- nothing here really scales the same height as the title track. But as a memento of mainstream rock circa the early '80s, Eye of the Tiger is a faithful snapshot.

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DIO - The Last In Line (1984) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal
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☠: 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,

Grav - Down To Earth (1996)

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

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March 23, 2017

Nickelback - All The Right Reasons (2005)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Post Grunge
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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.

tags: nickelback, all the right reasons, 2005, flac,

March 20, 2017

Bon Jovi - These Days (1995)

*European pressing. 
Contains the track "Bitter Wine" and 13 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1995 Mercury Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
With These Days, Bon Jovi firmly established themselves as an adult contemporary act. They still have their fair share of rockers, but they seem half-hearted and incomplete. Instead, the band sounds the most comfortable with love ballads and working class anthems, from hits "This Ain't a Love Song" and "Lie to Me," to the acoustic "Diamond Ring." In fact, as the years go by, Bon Jovi gets musically stronger. Not only are their best songs stronger now, their playing is more accomplished. Keeping these improvements in mind, it's no surprise that the group was one of the few pop-metal bands to sustain a career in the mid-'90s.

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Bon Jovi - Bounce (2002)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock, Pop Rock
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© 2002 Island Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Given that Bon Jovi successfully pulled off a comeback in 2000 with Crush, a shiny pop album pitched directly at the mainstream, it's kind of a surprise that they returned two years later with a record as turgid as Bounce. Instead of continuing the colorful blueprint of Crush, they fearlessly backpedal, turning out dull, heavy, serious rock -- the kind of music that sounds "serious" even when it's about trivial things. Of course, much of the record is given over to "serious" topics, as if the band felt that the events of 2001 necessitated a grave response for Bounce, regardless of what they were singing. Such sobriety would not have been a problem if the band had solid material, but they're not only lacking songs, they've inexplicably altered their musical approach. In particular, guitarist Richie Sambora sounds as if he's aping James Hetfield's lumbering downstrokes throughout the album, giving the record an oppressively heavy sound that never lets the music breathe. This casts a pall over the record, but this stumble is not the sole reason Bounce is such a misstep for the band. After all, this is a record where Bon Jovi seems to have consciously decided to avoid everything that gives their music character, melody, and muscle, a move that would have been odd at any point during their career, but is particularly puzzling after they delivered an album that found them growing old gracefully. It's as if they want to undo everything Crush did for them.

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DIO - Holy Diver (1983) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1983 Warner Bros. Records
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,