July 29, 2017

Good Charlotte - Good Morning Revival (2007)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop Rock, Dance Rock
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© 2007 Daylight, Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
When ironies are as delicious as punk-pop quartet Good Charlotte turning into the very thing they parodied on their career-making hit, "Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous," it's hard to resist the temptation to repeat the story, no matter how often it's been said. After all, it is true. Good Charlotte succumbed to every temptation fame has to offer and turned into L.A. scenester frat-rats, which, in turn, turned them into gossip-blog fodder as lead singer Joel Madden dated teen queens and super-skinny celebs whose main claim to fame was being famous. It's a textbook rock & roll cliché, and now that the apex of their popularity is beginning to recede into the past, they've fallen back on another textbook rock & roll cliché for their fourth album, 2007's Good Morning Revival: desperate trend-chasing. True, the group was beginning to stretch out on their first post-fame album, 2004's The Chronicles of Life and Death, but where that found the group getting a little more ambitious, Good Morning Revival -- released a full five years after their breakthrough, The Young and the Hopeless -- demonstrates that they now have real concerns about appearing fashionable, so they've adopted the two main rock trends that surfaced since 2002: dance-punk and '80s fetishism. They've morphed from blink-182 into the Killers, a stylistic makeover that makes Madden's swipes at the "plastic people" of Hollywood on the opening "Misery" ring a little hollow since his sudden pursuit of glam style seems like the epitome of L.A. emptiness. To be sure, the icy synth textures and guitar atmospherics borrowed from the Edge are the foundation of this album, but Good Charlotte aren't content to just restrict themselves to tricks they learned from the Killers; they sample from a wide spectrum of sounds and bands from the last five years. There's the pounding electro-disco of Rapture-lite "Dance Floor Anthem," which feels like it should be ironic, but isn't. There's the Blur/Gorillaz-aping "Keep Your Hands Off My Girl" -- its chanting verse borrowed from "We Got a Line on You," the hook from "Song 2," its beat from the Gorillaz -- and there's the Coldplay-esque shimmer of "Where Would We Be Now," complete with the finishing touch of piano arpeggio. This kind of calculating changeup would have worked better if the band had the hooks or the good sense to embrace their crass pandering so it's good trashy fun; if they signaled that they knew how ridiculous this shift in direction was, it'd be easier to enjoy.

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Various Artists - Top Gun (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (1986)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, Hard Rock
Label Number: CK 40323
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© 1986 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Chuck Donkers
One of the best-selling soundtrack albums of all time, Top Gun remains a quintessential artifact of the mid-'80s. The collection's smash hits (including Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" and Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone") still define the bombastic, melodramatic sound that dominated the pop charts of the era.

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Good Charlotte - Good Charlotte (2003 Reissue)

*The 2003 reissue adds the track "The Click" Contains 14 tracks total.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Punk Rock, Pop Rock
Style: Pop Punk
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© 2000-2003 Daylight, Epic Records
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Punk-ska quintet Good Charlotte often sounds like a cross between Green Day and Smash Mouth on its self-titled debut album, and the band members also show evidence of a familiarity with the Clash. The beats come fast and furious, the simple guitar chords noisily fill the middle range, and the vocals are sung with snotty belligerence. "Little Things," the lead-off track, sets the tone; it's about the petty humiliations an outsider can encounter at high school. Elsewhere, the lyrics speak of musical aspirations in the face of 9-to-5 pressures, condemn absent fathers, and berate ex-girlfriends who would rather date football heroes. This is all standard-issue stuff, and in fact the only odd element here is an occasionally expressed religious interest. The band members all give profuse thanks to God in their acknowledgments in the CD booklet, and God also turns up here and there in the lyrics, such as in "Complicated" ("giving thanks to the lord, and I pray every day") and in the hidden bonus track, apparently titled "Thank You Mom" ("You showed me how to love my god"). Religion can turn up in the strangest places, of course, but such remarks seem incongruous among lyrics that casually employ minor vulgarities and have a generally angry tone, performed by a group that favors tattoos and extensive piercings in its photographs. Good Charlotte can't quite be called a CCM group on the basis of its debut album, but the band's songs definitely send mixed messages. [The compact-disc version of Good Charlotte is a "CD Extra," its multimedia content consisting of a music video for "Little Things" that finds the group cavorting in a high school.]

tags: good charlotte, good charlotte 2003 reissue, reissue, 2000, flac,

Good Charlotte - The Young & The Hopeless (2002)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
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© 2002 Daylight, Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Tom Semioli
Good Charlotte's The Young and the Hopeless is punk-pop déjà vu. Rehashing worn clichés aplenty on each track, cuts such as "The Anthem" emerge exactly as the title overtly implies: a high-velocity, guitar-driven reason to lash out against the usual growing pains inflicted by parental authority and high-school drama. Grafting the widely recognizable drum motif from Iggy Pop's infamous "Lust for Life," "Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous" is downright predictable, while offerings including "Boys and Girls," "Day That I Die," and "Moving On" are strictly paint-by-numbers rockers sans personality. However, "Emotionless," a shoegazing ballad with a clever orchestral backdrop, stands as the sole moment of truth. An album title that clearly reflects the content; stick with bands such as Green Day if radio-ready punk-pop is your preference.

tags: good charlotte, the young and the hopeless, 2002,

Good Charlotte - The Chronicles of Life & Death (Death Version) (2004)

*Contains the track "Wounded" exclusive to this release.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop Rock, Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
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© 2004 Daylight, Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Good Charlotte's popularity exploded in 2002, when the brash singles "Anthem" and "Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous" catapulted them to the top of the punk-pop heap. Once there they couldn't be stopped, at least in part because they endorsed their pop side as much as their punk-derived image. When naysayers tried pointing out the music's lack of substance, Charlotte's irascible core -- tattooed brothers Benji and Joel Madden -- challenged them with the issue of "Boys and Girls," a vacuous yet irresistibly fizzy new wave-styled goof. The Chronicles of Life and Death, Good Charlotte's first post-fame album, uses that status as a loosely binding concept. The Maddens are unquestionably happy with their celebrity. But they've also realized that money won't always buy happiness, or heal their old scars. After an indulgent string section intro, the title track begins to the beep of a heart-rate monitor. "Money talks/In this world," Joel Madden sings the song's modified power pop strut. "That's what idiots will say/But you'll find out/That this world/Is just an idiot's parade." It's the jaded realization on the other side of "Lifestyles"' stardom-baiting. Whereas their previous effort was, with a few notable exceptions, boisterous punk-pop, Chronicles includes an echoing relationship-woe piano ballad ("The Truth"), the subdued "Ghost of You"'s synthesizers and vocal harmonies, and quirky keyboards and acoustic guitars in the lyrically bitter "The World Is Black" ("I can't live when this world keeps dying..."). Joel Madden has also matured since The Young and the Hopeless -- his newly developed husky tenor suits him well on the more introspective material, but can still belt out the rousing punk-pop choruses of "Walk Away (Maybe)," "Predictable," and "Secrets." The album's best track might be its greatest departure. "I Just Wanna Live" is a punchy blend of power chords, string samples, and disco beats that features Madden rapping in a Nelly-inspired flow. For all their well-crafted ambition on Chronicles, "I Just Wanna Live" feels like Good Charlotte's centerpiece, since it's spiked with rock power, but gets its soul from the pop life they lead. [The Chronicles of Life and Death was issued in "Life" and "Death" versions, each with a unique bonus track.]

tags: good charlotte, the chronicles of life and death, death version, 2004,

Good Charlotte - The Chronicles of Life & Death (Life Version) (2004)

*Contains the track "Falling Away" exclusive to this release.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop Rock, Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
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© 2004 Daylight, Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Good Charlotte's popularity exploded in 2002, when the brash singles "Anthem" and "Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous" catapulted them to the top of the punk-pop heap. Once there they couldn't be stopped, at least in part because they endorsed their pop side as much as their punk-derived image. When naysayers tried pointing out the music's lack of substance, Charlotte's irascible core -- tattooed brothers Benji and Joel Madden -- challenged them with the issue of "Boys and Girls," a vacuous yet irresistibly fizzy new wave-styled goof. The Chronicles of Life and Death, Good Charlotte's first post-fame album, uses that status as a loosely binding concept. The Maddens are unquestionably happy with their celebrity. But they've also realized that money won't always buy happiness, or heal their old scars. After an indulgent string section intro, the title track begins to the beep of a heart-rate monitor. "Money talks/In this world," Joel Madden sings the song's modified power pop strut. "That's what idiots will say/But you'll find out/That this world/Is just an idiot's parade." It's the jaded realization on the other side of "Lifestyles"' stardom-baiting. Whereas their previous effort was, with a few notable exceptions, boisterous punk-pop, Chronicles includes an echoing relationship-woe piano ballad ("The Truth"), the subdued "Ghost of You"'s synthesizers and vocal harmonies, and quirky keyboards and acoustic guitars in the lyrically bitter "The World Is Black" ("I can't live when this world keeps dying..."). Joel Madden has also matured since The Young and the Hopeless -- his newly developed husky tenor suits him well on the more introspective material, but can still belt out the rousing punk-pop choruses of "Walk Away (Maybe)," "Predictable," and "Secrets." The album's best track might be its greatest departure. "I Just Wanna Live" is a punchy blend of power chords, string samples, and disco beats that features Madden rapping in a Nelly-inspired flow. For all their well-crafted ambition on Chronicles, "I Just Wanna Live" feels like Good Charlotte's centerpiece, since it's spiked with rock power, but gets its soul from the pop life they lead. [The Chronicles of Life and Death was issued in "Life" and "Death" versions, each with a unique bonus track.]

tags: good charlotte, the chronicles of life and death, life version, 2004,

Good Charlotte - Cardiology (2010)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop Rock, Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
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© 2010 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Ten years on from their debut, Good Charlotte jumped from Epic to Capitol, but more importantly, they decided to largely abandon the dance-punk nonsense of 2007’s Good Morning Revival for a time-honored back-to-basics move. They’ve returned to the bouncy punk-pop of their earliest years; they’re trying hard not to be blinded by the glittery lights of Hollywood; and they’re writing from the heart, hence the name Cardiology. Old habits do die hard, of course, and so do new ones: it doesn’t take long before the brothers Madden are writing fantasies of how “you’re my Bette Davis/I’m your Cary Grant”; by the end of the record, they’ve had an electronic relapse, dabbling chillouts and electronic rhythms. Ultimately, these are minor backslides in an album that revives the hook-happy punky pogo of Good Charlotte’s first albums while adding the new wrinkles, namely a willingness to indulge in pure power ballads and AAA pop, the latter in the form of the rose-tinted “1979,” an ode to the year of the Madden’s birth. “1979” may pander with its laundry list of classic rock albums, but it has the boldest hook here and is the leanest piece of pop, overshadowing the shellacked attempts to hold onto whatever footing at modern rock radio Good Charlotte still has. Maturity doesn’t necessarily suit the band -- there’s a natural, flat whine to Joel Madden’s voice that dooms him to eternal adolescence -- but every step Good Charlotte makes toward a comfortable middle age on Cardiology is a step that succeeds, producing music that resonates louder and longer than the flashy twaddle of Good Morning Revival.

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July 27, 2017

Evanescence - Evanescence (Deluxe Edition) (2011)

*Contains 4 bonus tracks.
16 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Metal, Gothic Metal
Label Number: 60150-13299-2

© 2011 Wind-Up
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Difficult births are no stranger to Evanescence. Nothing ever quite seems to come easy for Amy Lee, yet the five years separating Evanescence’s 2006 sophomore effort The Open Door and its eponymous 2011 album were relatively quiet, the band undergoing some lineup changes -- not to mention a switch of producers, from Steve Lillywhite to Nick Raskulinecz -- but nothing comparable to the messy departure of Ben Moody between the group’s first two albums. Such comparative calm is reflected within the grooves of Evanescence, which is less tortured tonally even if it remains quite dramatic. Lee’s default mode is to sing to the rafters, her operatic bluster sometimes overbearing when her settings are gloomy, but Raskulinecz pulls off a nifty trick of brightening the murk, retaining all of the churning drama but lessening the oppression by brightening the colors and pushing the melody. While there’s hardly a danger of Amy Lee removing her thick mascara, she’s not pouting all the time; there’s some shade and light here, some variety of tempos, enough to give Evanescence the illusion of warmth, not to mention a fair share of crossover hooks. It’s aural candy for aging goths and tortured tweens alike.

tags: evanescence, evanescence deluxe edition, 2011,

July 26, 2017

Evanescence - The Open Door (2006)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Metal
Label Number: 60150-13120-2

© 2006 Wind-Up
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It seems like a minor miracle that Evanescence released their second album at all, given the behind-the-scenes toil and trouble that surrounded the aftermath of their 2003 debut, Fallen, turning into an unexpected blockbuster. Actually, so much drama followed Evanescence that it's hardly the same band anymore. Certainly, pivotal songwriter/guitarist Ben Moody is no longer with the band, leaving not long after Fallen had become an international success, and sometime after that, they lost their bassist -- leaving behind Amy Lee as the indisputable leader of the band. She always was the face, voice, and spirit of the band anyway -- dominating so that it often seemed that she was named Evanescence and not fronting a band called that -- but by the time the group finally released their long-awaited second album, The Open Door, in October 2006, there was no question that it was her band, and she has learned well from the success of Fallen. Pushed to the background are the Tori-isms that constituted a good chunk of the debut -- they're saved for the brooding affirmation of a closer, "Good Enough," and the churning "Lithium," which most certainly is not a cover of Nirvana's classic (that song never mentioned its title, this repeats it incessantly) -- and in their place is the epic gothic rock (not quite the same thing as goth rock, mind you) that made Lee rock's leading witchy woman of the new millennium. And she doesn't hesitate to dig into the turmoil surrounding the band, since this truly is all about her -- she may artfully avoid the ugliness surrounding the lawsuit against her manager, whom she's alleged of sexual harassment, but she takes a few swipes against Moody, while hitting her semi-famous ex, Shaun Morgan of Seether, directly with "Call Me When You're Sober," as blunt a dismissal as they come. To hear her tell it, she not only doesn't need anybody, she's better on her own. Yet artists aren't always the best judge of their own work, and Lee could use somebody to help sculpt her sound into songs, the way she did when Moody was around. Not that she's flailing about necessarily -- "Call Me When You're Sober" not only has structure, it has hooks and momentum -- but far too often, The Open Door is a muddle of affections. Sonically, however, it captures the Evanescence mythos better and more consistently than the first album -- after all, Lee now has no apologies of being the thinking man's nu-metal chick, now that she's a star.

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Evanescence - Origin (2000)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Metal
Label Number: bwe0002

© 2000 Bigwig Enterprises
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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July 22, 2017

Kelis - Food (2014)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
Label Number: ZENCD205

© 2014 Ninja Turtle
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Flesh Tone, Kelis' lone release through Interscope, brought about a pair of Top Five club hits. The creatively restless singer and songwriter nonetheless quickly moved on to working on her sixth album with a handful of U.K. garage and dubstep producers, including Skream, whose 2013 "Copy Cat" featured one of her most clever (and slightly creepy) turns. She changed course again and teamed up with TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek, whose Los Angeles house hosted loose recording sessions with an atmosphere that, according to Kelis, was "like a freakin' commune." Released on U.K. label Ninja Tune, Food sports a cover that doesn't seem nearly bright or colorful enough to reflect its sound -- an eclectic and modern-sounding synthesis of classic pop and rhythm & blues with a lot of friskiness, some funk, and even a little twang. Strings, horns, and brass arranged by Todd Simon are a major part of the album and match up well with the slightly scratchy and simultaneously sportive and sincere qualities of Kelis' voice. The certified chef's references to food are abundant, but they're all used as a way to help illustrate a set that is principally about a blossoming relationship and positive reflection. The first line of the opening "Breakfast" -- "I wanna say thank you, you've been more than just a man" -- is more an indication of the album's theme than its song titles. Likewise, the shuffling and soaring "Jerk Ribs" contains no actual culinary content, rooted instead in a brilliantly drawn memory about her father, where "He said to look for melody in everything" is followed by instantly memorable horn riffs. On the rollicking Afro-beat-touched "Cobbler," Kelis coos, "You make me hit notes that I never sing," and it somehow seems totally justifiable to have a background singer trail the line with "She never sings these notes" and a Deniece Williams-like flourish. During the album's second half, the celebratory spirit is temporarily interrupted by a surprising acoustic diversion -- a straightforward cover of folk love song "Bless the Telephone" (1971), originally written and recorded by another classification-defying artist, Labi Siffre. While it remains almost impossible to dissociate Kelis and early collaborators the Neptunes, it's more difficult imagining a better creative alliance -- at this point in her career, at least -- than the one that shines here.

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Ramones - Pleasant Dreams (1981)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Punk Rock
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© 1981-1994 Sire Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
End of the Century didn't make the Ramones into the stars they so wanted to be, so they hooked up with another '60s icon, Graham Gouldman, for its follow-up, Pleasant Dreams. Oddly, Gouldman directs the band away from their bubblegum, British Invasion, and surf fetishes toward acid rock and heavy metal. They still manage to squeak out a couple of irresistibly catchy songs, but the production is too clean to qualify as punk, and the music itself has lost sight of the infectious qualities that made their earlier records such fun. Yet those flaws seem endearing compared to the metallic meanderings of their late-'80s records.

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Ramones - Subterranean Jungle (1983)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Punk Rock
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© 1983-1994 Sire Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Tentatively returning toward punk, or at least new wave, the Ramones turned in their most enjoyable record since Rocket to Russia with Subterranean Jungle. Producers Ritchie Cordell and Glen Kolotkin were the heads of the edgy power pop and punk label Bomp!, so they steered the Ramones back toward the '60s pop infatuation that provided the foundation for their early records. It's a strategy that pays off well -- for the most part, the group's originals are so punchy and catchy that they make the pair of covers superfluous. Comprised of a set of unabashedly hook-laden songs and driven by more subtle rhythms, Subterranean Jungle may not be a punk record in the strictest sense of the word, yet the Ramones haven't sounded quite as alive in a long, long while.

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July 19, 2017

Paula Abdul - Head Over Heels (1995)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop
Label Number: 7243 8 40525 2 2

© 1995 Virgin Records
Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine for Allmusic.com
Four years after the release of Spellbound, Paula Abdul returned with the sleek Head Over Heels. Head Over Heels doesn't sound all that different than her previous album; it incorporates a couple of current dance trends without ever letting the beats dominate the accessible pop melodies of the songs. Unfortunately, the songs are more well constructed than well written -- all of the arrangements hide the fact that the songs usually lack strong hooks. That weakness is accentuated by the length of the album. Approaching nearly 70 minutes, Head Over Heels spends too much time with lesser songs. Abdul remains an engaging presence, even with her limited vocal talents, and the record's best songs -- the slinky "My Love Is for Real," for instance -- are more mature and seductive than her earlier works, showing that she has the possibility to grow old gracefully.

tags: paula abdul, head over heels, 1995, flac,

Bounty Killer - My Xperience (1996)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: Jamaica
Language: English
Genre: Danchall, Ragga
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© 1996 TVT/VP Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
In the 1990s, Bounty Killer became one of the top figures in dancehall reggae, a form also associated with such Jamaican stars as Lt. Stitchie, Shabba Ranks and Ninjaman. In contrast to the melodic nature of mainstream reggae, My Xperience is an abrasive, rhythmic disc that has little use for melody. Those who aren't big dancehall fans may find the hip-hop-influenced CD hard to get into; those who are heavily into it will find a lot to admire on My Xperience, which contains major dancehall hits like "Living Dangerously" and "Virgin Island." A variety of guests join Bounty -- everyone from the Fugees on "Hip-Hopera" to reggae singer Barrington Levy on "Living Dangerously" to hardcore rapper Jeru the Damaja on "Suicide or Murder." Granted, dancehall has its limitations and can wear thin after awhile, but even so, My Xperience makes for an exhilarating listen.

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702 - 702 (1999) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
Label Number: 314549526-2
☠: Selected by Lass
© 1999 Motown Records
Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine for Allmusic.com
702 showed promise on their debut, but with their self-titled second effort, they're beginning to find their own voice. True, they need the help of some powerful collaborators and producers to get there -- including Rick "Dutch" Cousin, Soulshock & Karlin, and Missy Elliott, who clearly was an influence here -- but the end result is a seamless, professional contemporary R&B album that is blessed with an appealing sound and some very good songs, such as "Where My Girls At?" Like many modern-day R&B records, it's padded a little bit with filler and runs a little bit too long, but a number of really good moments here make it a true step forward for 702.

tags: 702, 702 album, 1999, flac,

DIO - Master of The Moon (2004)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2004 Sanctuary Records
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
There's something about a post-millennium album cover that features a giant blue-horned minion of Satan in pre-pounce with an illuminated crystal ball in its leathery hand that simply warms the soul, and the fact that it adorns a record called Master of the Moon can mean only one thing: Dio. Unlike many in the aging metal community, Ronnie James Dio still possesses the same powerful voice that fueled the genre through its late-'70s and '80s heydays, and the reigning dark prince of Elfdom and two-time Black Sabbath frontman is still capable of writing a killer song or two. MOTM resembles earlier works like Last in Line and Sacred Heart in its ability to buffer those one or two great tracks with seven or eight forgettable ones. Luckily, it's the first one out of the gate, "One More for the Road," that packs the biggest wallop. Similar in attack to classics like "We Rock" and "Stand Up and Shout," it sets a breakneck pace for a record that gives up just minutes after the firing of the start gun. What follows is a series of midtempo rockers outfitted with RJD's generic fantasy lyrics about dreams, evil, and being "stronger than the wind," which flirt with creative arrangements and forward-thinking key changes, only to concede to the dark lord of banality. There are moments that inspire, like the snaky Brian May-like riff that weaves through the title track, and the surprisingly political, melodic, and complex "The Man Who Would Be King" -- in true RJD fashion he references the Middle Eastern community as "the people of the sand" -- is among his most satisfying since 1987's "All the Fools Sailed Away," but Dio's on autopilot for the record's majority, resulting in a mediocre romp through the ruins of a land and a time that hath been long forgotten.

tags: dio, DIO, master of the moon, 2004, flac,

July 18, 2017

Metallica - Master of Puppets (1986)⚓

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Thrash Metal
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© 1986 Elektra Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Even though Master of Puppets didn't take as gigantic a leap forward as Ride the Lightning, it was the band's greatest achievement, hailed as a masterpiece by critics far outside heavy metal's core audience. It was also a substantial hit, reaching the Top 30 and selling three million copies despite absolutely nonexistent airplay. Instead of a radical reinvention, Master of Puppets is a refinement of past innovations. In fact, it's possible to compare Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets song for song and note striking similarities between corresponding track positions on each record (although Lightning's closing instrumental has been bumped up to next-to-last in Master's running order). That hint of conservatism is really the only conceivable flaw here. Though it isn't as startling as Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets feels more unified, both thematically and musically. Everything about it feels blown up to epic proportions (indeed, the songs are much longer on average), and the band feels more in control of its direction. You'd never know it by the lyrics, though -- in one way or another, nearly every song on Master of Puppets deals with the fear of powerlessness. Sometimes they're about hypocritical authority (military and religious leaders), sometimes primal, uncontrollable human urges (drugs, insanity, rage), and, in true H.P. Lovecraft fashion, sometimes monsters. Yet by bookending the album with two slices of thrash mayhem ("Battery" and "Damage, Inc."), the band reigns triumphant through sheer force -- of sound, of will, of malice. The arrangements are thick and muscular, and the material varies enough in texture and tempo to hold interest through all its twists and turns. Some critics have called Master of Puppets the best heavy metal album ever recorded; if it isn't, it certainly comes close.

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Paula Abdul - Forever Your Girl (1988) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop
Label Number: 7 90943-2
☠: Selected by Lass
© 1988 Virgin Records
Review by Bryan Buss for Allmusic.com
Singer/dancer/choreographer Paula Abdul hit the big time with the third single, "Straight Up," off this album, which sparked a string of hits that carried through to her follow-up. Despite having a slight voice, her voice is distinct and perfectly suited to this synthesized type of late-'80s dance-pop. "Cold Hearted" is insistent and catchy, "Forever Your Girl" is sweet and accessible, and "Opposites Attract" gives Abdul a chance to spar with the Wild Pair. There is some filler -- "Next to You," for example -- that hasn't aged as well as the better material, but overall this is a consistent album with some great dance-pop songs. Unfortunately, as Abdul and her material matured, her audience waned.

tags: paula abdul, forever your girl, 1988, flac,

July 17, 2017

Heart - Desire Walks On (1993)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock, Pop Rock
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© 1993 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
When Desire Walks On came out in 1993, a lot of arena rock, pop-metal and hair metal artists felt like the rug was being pulled out from under them. Alternative rock had become rock's primary direction, and bands like Heart were being made to feel antiquated and passé. Desire Walks On had a lot working against it--not only did have Heart have to contend with radical changes in the marketplace, but also, the CD suffers from unevenness and a shortage of really strong material. Although Desire Walks On isn't a bad album, it isn't one of the Wilson Sisters' more memorable albums either. The catchy "Back To Avalon" is a gem, and Heart is enjoyable on Robert "Mutt" Lange's power ballad "Will You Be There (In The Morning)," the adult contemporary ballad "The Woman in Me" and a cover of Bob Dylan's "Ring Them Bells." But on the whole, Desire Walks On is unimpressive. Obviously the least essential of Heart's Capitol releases, this CD is strictly for completists.

tags: heart, desire walks on, 1993,

Faith Evans - Keep The Faith (1998)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
Label Number: 78612-73016-2

© 1998 Bad Boy Records
AllMusic Review by Jose F. Promis
Faith Evans' second album Keep the Faith was met with quite a bit of anticipation. The album was released three years after her acclaimed, soulful, and raw debut Faith, and in that time she had witnessed the murder of her husband the Notorious B.I.G., which led to the biggest hit of her career (and one of the biggest of the 1990s), the tribute "I'll Be Missing You" (in collaboration with Puff Daddy). Keep the Faith proved to be a success, and she happily avoided the curse of the sophomore slump. The album scored two Top Ten singles with the irresistible dance/R&B cut "Love Like This" and its follow-up, the equally intoxicating "All Night Long." Aside from those two dance numbers, the rest of the album falls somewhere between heavy ballads and mid-tempo grooves. Ms. Evans shines when she sings fast or mid-tempo songs, such as the slick "Life Will Pass You By," but the ballads weigh too heavily on this otherwise fine album. Some of the ballads stand tall, such as the gorgeous "My First Love" and the inspiration-tinged "Keep the Faith," while others are about as entertaining and inspired as tree sap ("Anything You Need" and the yawn-inducing interludes). Unfortunately, these ballads are all lumped together on this album, to the point where they almost blend into one long drip of molasses. However, the classy Ms. Evans possesses a beautiful voice, is a gifted songwriter, and happily steers clear of the tacky clichés that burden so much contemporary R&B. So despite the heavy reliance on ballads, this is actually a fine album, and is without a doubt a highlight of 1990s soul-pop music. Other notable tunes include the beautiful "Never Gonna Let You Go," which could be classified as the last great Babyface hit song of the 1990s (that song, incidentally, topped the R&B charts and hit the Top 20 on the pop charts), and the Dianne Warren-penned "Lately I," which never became the hit it should have been.

tags: faith evans, keep the faith, 1998, flac,

Aaliyah - One In a Million (1996)⚓

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
Label Number: 92715-2
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© 1996 Blackground, Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Leo Stanley
Aaliyah's second album doesn't necessarily prove that she is indeed One in a Million, but it does showcase more depth and talent than her acclaimed debut. That's not only due to the greater variety of material on One in a Million, or to the way that her producers (Vincent Herbert, Jermaine Dupri, and many others) immaculately produce each track, but it is also due to the fact that Aaliyah's singing is smoother, more seductive, and stronger than before. It might not be the commercial juggernaut of Age Ain't Nothin' but a Number, but One in a Million is a more consistently satisfying album.

tags: aaliyah, one in a million, 1996, flac,

July 16, 2017

Aaliyah - I Care 4 U (2002)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
Label Number: 440 060 082-2
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© 2002 Blackground Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Respecting the legacy of one of R&B's most important artists during the '90s, Universal and Blackground waited more than a year after her death to deliver a new Aaliyah release. Considering all the time that had gone by, however, fans could be forgiven for expecting an album of all-new material to compensate for the long drought. I Care 4 U actually balances a brief hits collection with a half-dozen new songs, most of the fresh material appearing only after a run-through of the hits from her three proper albums. There isn't too much to complain about concerning the hits selection; I Care 4 U touches on most of the highlights from her seven-year career: "Back & Forth" and "At Your Best (You Are Love)" from her first album, "One in a Million" and "Got to Give It Up" from 1996's One in a Million, and three tracks from 2001's Aaliyah. (Surely though, the compilers could've found room on this 14-track collection for a pair of her Top Ten greats, "If Your Girl Only Knew" and "The One I Gave My Heart To," or the Romeo Must Die hit "I Don't Wanna.") Of the new tracks, four of the six feature composer credits from Johnta Austin ("I Don't Wanna"), and his affectionate, smoky ballads are perfectly suited to Aaliyah's vocals. "Miss You," the presciently titled single, and "All I Need" don't have the edge of her classic Timbaland productions, but they stand up well -- even when they're slotted next to the best songs of her career. Aaliyah was well ahead of her time during her brief career, and I Care 4 U hangs together well, the hits showing the power of her voice and the strength of her accompanying productions, while the new songs provide an intriguing look at where Aaliyah may have taken her career had she lived.

tags: aaliyah, i care 4 u, i care for you, 2002, flac,