August 31, 2017

Jennifer Lopez - Rebirth (2005)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 2005 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The last time Jennifer Lopez made an album -- 2002's This Is Me... Then -- she was deeply love with actor/Academy Award-winning screenwriter Ben Affleck, a relationship immortalized in the video for "Jenny From the Block" and "Dear Ben," a ballad that rivals Billy Bob Thornton's "Angelina" as the greatest celebrity love song of the 2000s. Of course, the relationship was also immortalized in the notorious Martin Brest disaster Gigli, released eight months after This Is Me, and that film's abysmal box office was the beginning of the end for the couple, whose engagement was called off in early 2004. Lopez rebounded quickly with a marriage to Latin pop singer Marc Anthony and with the new romance came an opportunity to restart her career -- hence Rebirth, the title of her fourth album. While she doesn't avoid the subject of her highly publicized romantic life, she does bury two seemingly confessional ballads at the end of the record (not counting the album-concluding reprise of the opening single, "Get Right"). Voyeurs may find interest in "He'll Be Back" (a tune not written by Lopez, but a breakup song that certainly recalls the Bennifer saga) and "(Can't Believe) This Is Me" -- a collaboration with her new husband that suggests Lopez may not have learned the lesson of Gigli -- but they're easily the worst moments on an album that's otherwise a sleek, sexy blast. Apart from those turgid ballads, Rebirth is a straight-ahead dance album, alternating between sweet, breezy pop tunes like the irresistible "Still Around" and hard-driving club tracks like the surprisingly heavy, infectious "Cherry Pie." Lopez may not be a flashy singer, but she's appealing on record precisely because she and her collaborators -- chief among them executive producer Cory Rooney -- know those limitations and present them in tuneful packages with big, exciting beats. Since it doesn't deviate from the blueprint she's followed on her first three albums, it's hard to call this record a literal creative rebirth, but song for song, Rebirth has more energy and better hooks than her other albums. It may not be deep, but it sure is fun -- and after the tumult of 2003 and 2004, Lopez sure does deserve to have a little fun.

tags: jennifer lopez, rebith, 2005, flac,

Jennifer Lopez - Love? (Deluxe Edition) (2011)

*Contains 5 bonus tracks & 16 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A
Language: English, Spanish (Espa├▒ol)
Genre: Pop, Electronic, R&B
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© 2011 Island Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Given her promotion to the Paula Abdul seat on American Idol, there’s a distinct irony in having the first sounds on Jennifer Lopez's Love? all twisted through a vocoder: she may be judging the pop purity of legions of hopeful singers, but even she can’t resist the siren call of the computer. Of course, Lopez was never, ever about singing; she was about style, particularly the kind that passes for fashionable at glitzy high-rise discos. She was lucky enough to launch her career at the turn of the millennium, when it was still possible to have big dance crossover hits, but as her career marched on, the beats took prominence over the melody, a particular problem considering how slight Lopez’s voice is. She’s sweet enough a presence, but she needs powerful hooks to cut through the gloss, which she by and large doesn’t do on Love? Instead of being a return to the high-glitz pizzazz of “Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” this is pop in form only, never quite mustering up the energy to be infectious, never having a hook to drag a listener into its orbit, so listless that neither Lil Wayne nor Pitbull can drag it into focus. It’s high-sheen wallpaper, so flimsy that it peels away immediately after application.

tags: jennifer lopez, love, deluxe edition, love?, 2011, flac,

DJ Cam - The Beat Assassinated (1998)

*French pressing. Track list remains the same.
Country: France
Language: English, French (Le Fran├žais)
Genre: French Hip-Hop, Electronic
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© 1998 Columbia Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: dj cam, the beat assassinated, 1998, flac,

Various Artists - The Unbound Project: Volume 1 (2000)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2000 Ground Control Records
AllMusic Review by Nick Pfeiffer
After releasing the No More Prisons project, Realized is at it again, this time with the compilation The Unbound Project, Vol. 1 focused on the unjust incarceration of Black Panther and journalist Mumia Abul-Jamal. All of the artists participating on this CD have donated their royalties to the legal defense fund of Abul-Jamal and are united around the cause of exposing the flawed criminal justice system. Accompanied with the album is a brief essay that explores the indications of a "prison industrial complex" and its affects on the youth of America, especially minorities. The essay and the album together create a real eye-opening experience and The Unbound Project, Vol. 1 truly enlightens its observer. The album commences with a sure shot from Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek) titled "The Human Element," which is equally entertaining as it is perceptive, and it is undoubtedly the best cut on the album. Other guests include Iriscience of Dilated Peoples, Aceyalone, J-Rocc, Saul Williams; the posse cut "Mumia 911" features everyone from Zach de la Rocha to the Roots' Black Thought. In the end, some of the tracks are slightly weak on the production side; however, it's not just how the music sounds, but what the lyricists are conveying. Pick up The Unbound Project to find out what's really going on -- you may not like what you find out about America, but you cannot expect the mainstream media to disseminate the truth.

tags: various artists, the unbound project volume 1, vol 1, 2000, flac,

Various Artists - Independents Finest: Volume 3 (2002)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2002 Ill Boogie Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: independents finest volume 3, vol 3, various artists, m boogie, 2002, flac,

August 29, 2017

El Imperio - Monopolio (1999)

*Se incluye una foto del disco en el archivo.
(A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.)
Country: Spain
Language: Spanish (Castellano)
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1999 Zona Bruta
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: el imperio, monopolio, 1999, flac, el monopolio, sr t cee, zarman,

Pacto Entre Castellanos - Espa├▒a Es Una Puta: E.P (1998) ☠

*Se incluye una foto del disco en el archivo.
(A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.)
Country: Spain
Language: Spanish (Castellano)
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Hardcore Hip-Hop
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☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 1998 Avoid Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: pacto entre castellanos, espana es una puta, espa├▒a es una puta, 1998, flac,

August 27, 2017

Usher - Raymond V Raymond (2010)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 2010 LaFace/Jive Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
The making of Usher’s sixth studio album was inevitably affected by the end of his marriage and its aftershocks. “Papers,” the early buzz single for Raymond V Raymond, bears the closest relation to the turbulence he experienced. He pours himself into that song more than any other on the set, and breakup lyrics don’t get much more specific than “You don’t think I know what’s up, but sweetheart that’s what ruined us” or “I done damn near lost my mama.” The song was awarded the top spot on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart, most likely for its lyrical uniqueness since the song does not break out of an exceptionally repetitive twiddle. Many of the songs on the album have to be taken on their own, stripped of context; otherwise, determining what applies to Usher’s real and fantasy lives can be problematic. (Either way, it’s evident that long-term relationships might not be for him.) The sleek dancefloor track “So Many Girls,” one of a few songs in which Usher sounds dead in the eyes, going through the motions, desensitized by the bounty of women at his feet, is followed by the sarcastically titled “Guilty,” where he whines “I guess I’m guilty for wanting to be up in the club” -- which warrants a response like “Yes, attached 31-year-old man, that’s correct.” A few songs before that is a quasi-redemptive ballad “Foolin’ Around”; he humbles himself, seems to take responsibility for his actions, then casually drops “Guess that’s just the man in me, blame it on celebrity.” The album’s catchiest uptempo song, “Lil Freak,” featuring Nicki Minaj, is effective despite itself, swiping the synthesizer line from “Living for the City” -- a classic containing Stevie Wonder's most angered social commentary -- for the sake of Usher’s lesbian tryst. (The combination is as wrong as Eugene McDaniels' “Compared to What” and a soft drink commercial.) Otherwise, the slow jams and the few moments when Usher sounds as if he's having actual fun win out. Two of the best happen to be collaborations with Jam and Lewis and the Avila Brothers. “Mars vs Venus,” a very slow jam, soars, while “Pro Lover” is a breezy, casual number filled with sweet dub accents.

tags: usher, raymond v raymond, 2010, flac, raymond v. raymond, vs,

U.D.O. - Thunderball (2004)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2004 AFM Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Upon the final demise of German metal legends Accept in 1998, the man who was its voice, the unmistakably shrill Udo Dirkschneider, pretty much stepped into the breach with his self-named band U.D.O. and sought to carry on with a sound and style that, like a saber-toothed cat of some sort, remains frozen in time. Not that what worked in 1984 will necessarily work in 2004 -- but most U.D.O. fans also happen to be semi-frosted relics (sorry!) from the same time period, Thunderball's carefully orchestrated nostalgia pieces may prove to be just what the doctor ordered. Truly, later day Accept rarely sounded as authentically '80s as Thunderball's title cut and subsequent offerings "Fistful of Anger," "Hell Bites Back" and "Tough Luck II" -- all of them packed with precisely jagged guitar riffs, thundering gang-choruses, and of course Dirkschneider's vocal power-drill slicing everything to tatters. The co-songwriting presence on all of these tracks of original Accept drummer, now guitarist Stefan Kaufmann (the man responsible for many of their greatest hits of yore) is of course crucial to their remarkable time-erasing accomplishments, and its fair to assume that the absolutely incredible "Pull the Trigger" is guaranteed to have everyone's Balls to the Wall. Now, for those who have had enough of the Accept comparisons, let it be known that not every track here sounds like a carbon copy of another band's gimmick. Slower selections such as "The Land of the Midnight Sun" and "The Magic Mirror" aren't nearly as obvious; the string-laden power ballad "Blind Eyes" rips off Demon's "Into the Nightmare" instead; and the hilariously absurd polka-metal of "Trainride in Russia" is certainly unique -- ridiculous, but unique. All in all, and easy comparisons notwithstanding, Thunderball's not a bad Accept -- I mean U.D.O. -- album at all.

tags: udo, u.d.o., thunderball, thunder ball, 2004, flac,

U.D.O. - Mission No. X (2005)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2005 AFM Records
AllMusic Review by Erik Hage
Those who only know Udo Dirkschneider from his German metal band Accept, which (via "Balls to the Wall") enjoyed a shimmer of success during the '80s metal heyday in the U.S., won't find any surprises with his newer project, U.D.O. The latter group's genesis actually goes back to the late '80s, after the split of Accept (who would reunite in the mid-'90s). Many '80s metallers had a tendency to dismiss their lumpen roots in later years; Rob Halford explored Trent Reznor-like industrial music in the wake of Judas Priest, while Tommy Lee went all indie rock and emo on 2005's Tommyland. Dirkschneider is woefully unbound by the tides of taste, however: the gargled, glassy shriek and power chords you hear on Mission No. X ("mission number ten") are precisely the same flourishes he employed when "Balls to the Wall" was on the lips of fashion-challenged headbangers everywhere. Tracks such as "24-7" and "Mean Streets" seem suspended in hard dollops of '80s amber, right down to guitar tone and production value. The former track also displays one of Dirkshneider's lyrical tendencies: using his English skills to glory in opaque, youthful clich├ęs: "You're going to live it, 24-7...24 hours, seven days a week!/You're going to give it, 24-7...24 hours, seven days a week!" (The other tendency would be inscrutability: witness the confounding call to "Put your balls to the wall!"). This album is clearly and unabashedly for that shrinking clutch of metalheads still trying to feed their jones for '80s power metal.

tags: udo, u.d.o., mission no x, no. x, flac, 2005,

U.D.O. - Dominator (Limited Edition) (2009)

*European release. Contains 1 bonus track & 11 tracks total.
Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2009 AFM Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
The '80s officially ended on January 1, 1990, but for metal and hard rock fans, the early ‘90s felt a lot like the '‘80s -- that is, until Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's 10 (both 1991 releases) made grunge explode commercially, and caused alternative rock to become rock's primary direction. After that, bands playing ''80s-style metal or '80s-style hard rock sounded very dated. But for some metalheads, the '80s never ended -- and Dominator is a 2008/2009 recording that finds former Accept frontman Udo Dirkschneider continuing to party like it's 1985. Like many other albums that Dirkschneider and his band U.D.O. have recorded in a post-Nevermind, post-10 world, Dominator finds the veteran headbanger stubbornly clinging to '80s-style power metal. But the fact that Dominator sounds so dated by late-2000s standards is not necessarily a bad thing -- certainly not if one still has a passionate craving for pre-''90s metal. "Heavy Metal Heaven," "Stillness of Time," and other fist-pumping tracks don't break any new ground for Dirkschneider, but they're solid and inspired nonetheless. After all these years, he still belts out old-school power metal with plenty of conviction -- and he never sounds the least bit bored on this 44-minute CD. If Dirkschneider had grown bored with this type of material, it would show. But that isn't the case at all. His passion and intensity remain. So his refusal to change with the times is probably for the best. Bottom line: headbangers who still treasure the albums that Accept, Judas Priest, and AC/DC recorded in the ‘80s will find that Dominator, although not essential, is a worthwhile, if predictable, addition to U.D.O.'s catalog.

tags: udo, dominator, u.d.o., 2009, flac, limited edition,

U.D.O. - Steelhammer (Limited Edition) (2013)

*European pressing. Contains 1 bonus track & 15 tracks total.
Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2013 AFM Records
Review by Rustyn Rose for Metalholic.com
It has been more than a quarter century since Udo Dirkschneider walked away from Accept and formed his namesake band, U.D.O. In that span he and his band have made some pretty impressive albums, with a few so-so efforts in the mix. This month the mighty Teutonic vocalist and a revamped line-up return with their 14th studio effort, “Steelhammer”. The album is easily U.D.O.’s most impressive effort in recent memory, putting a fresh face on the band’s classic style.
Steelhammer” is 14 tracks deep, and there really isn’t anything that one might consider filler. So the band has certainly made the investment of time and money worthwhile. The album’s cover art is classic metal and for some reason reminds me of Judas Priest’s “Defenders of the Faith”.
In 2012, the band’s longtime guitarist Stefan Kaufman stepped down for health reasons. He has also been Dirkschneider’s writing partner and the band’s producer. To add to the loss fellow guitarist Igor Gianola who had more than a decade in the band stepped down as well.
Finding new guitarists was an exhaustive process but he found two virtuosos in the form of former Amberian Dawn guitarist Kasperi Heikkinen and Russian multi-instrumentalist Andrey Smirnov (Everlost).
Writing the album proved much easier than Udo might have imagined. The stocky singer needed only to look stage-left at his bass player of 16 years to discover a new songwriting partner. Fitty Weinhold has been with U.D.O. since the band’s fifth studio album, “Solid”. Ironically the same album which saw Kaufman initially joined the band.
Full review here..... 

tags: udo, u.d.o., steelhammer, steel hammer, 2013, limited edition, flac,

U.D.O. - Decadent (Limited Edition) (2015)

*European release. Contains 1 bonus track & 14 tracks total.

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2015 AFM Records
Review by Nicholas P for New Noise Magazine.com
If the heavy metal of the future is the heavy metal of the past then what is the heavy metal of the past? The answer is FOREVER!
Udo Dirkschneider can still belt out some really great vocals. His singing is clear, and resembles the range he had from the 80s in an uncanny sort of way that could only be explained by just coming out and admitting he is sort of divine. The tracks on Decadent are reminiscent of the Metal Heart days of Accept. Those solos!
The album does serve as a reminder to the masses that Udo should be considered among the heavy weights of old school poster boys for heavy metal. It’s easy to get lost in the hype of a release by a legend, but this one is genuinely good. Yes, there are fantastic rocking tracks on the record like the title track and “Speeder.” “Speeder” has some interesting harmonics, and a great riff to accompany Udo’s unreal low growling scream. Like I pointed out the guy has pipes on loan from God. They’re not going anywhere probably ever, like Brian Johnson’s from ACDC. Udo has some pretty filthy musicians backing him on this one too. Fitty Weinhold from Bullet has been with him for the long haul, but the addition of Gamma Ray guitarist Kasperi Heikkinen and a relatively unknown guitar player from Moscow named Andrey Smirnov have each added their pull of weight to a great project.
U.D.O. continues the true sound of classic metal from Germany. Decadent is a strong album that I would recommend if you are interested in the continuation of 80s sound, speed metal, and angry German men playing fast music. (Nicholas P)

tags: udo, decadent, 2015, u.d.o., flac, limited edition,

Usher - Usher (1994) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1994 LaFace Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: usher, usher album, flac, 1994,

Usher - My Way (1997) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre:  R&B
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1997 LaFace Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Usher proved that he had a strong, soulful voice with his self-titled debut, but he fulfilled his potential on his second record, My Way. What makes Usher distinctive from his urban loverman peers is the fact that he doesn't oversing; he simply delivers his songs soulfully. Unfortunately, he falls prey to uneven material, just like any of his peers, but there are more strong songs on My Way than many contemporary R&B albums from the late '80s. Both Jermaine Dupri and Babyface contribute seamless productions and fine songs; respectively, "You Make Me Wanna..." and "Bedtime" are their best ballad contributions. Even if the ballads are usually seductive and romantic, cuts like the funky "Just Like Me," which features a cameo from Lil' Kim, might make you wish Usher didn't play it cool all of the time. And while it's refreshing to hear a hip-hop/urban R&B album clock in at a reasonable running time, it would have been nice if the tenth track was something other than a remix of "You Make Me Wanna..." Nevertheless, it's a strong second effort that showcases Usher at his best.

tags: usher, my way, 1997, flac,

August 26, 2017

Whitesnake - Trouble (1978)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1978-1987 EMI Records
Review by Matt Collar for Allmusic.com
Trouble was Whitesnake's first "real" album, setting the template for virtually all of the band's ensuing career, pre-1987 American sellout. (Snakebite, released earlier that year, was split between David Coverdale solo sessions and actual group recordings.) This was a group made up of seasoned veterans after all, and they knew exactly what it was they wanted: edgy hard rock based on R&B. They also knew who was boss: Coverdale, who after enduring a minority stake in the mighty Deep Purple, was now clearly established as top dog and de facto leader of the new outfit. (When he relinquishes lead vocal duties to guitarist Bernie Marsden on "Free Flight," it's because he wants to.) And what a slick, powerful outfit it was, too, with guitarists Marsden and Micky Moody compensating whatever visual shortcomings they may have had with their rock-solid six-string partnership, and former Purple organist Jon Lord holding it all together in the back. "Take Me with You"'s nonstop boogie and persistent slide guitar hook sets things into motion on a frenetic note, but it's the next song, "Love to Keep You Warm," which earns its stripes as a bona fide Whitesnake classic, largely due to its seductive, deliberate strut. In retrospect, concert fave "Lie Down (A Modern Day Love Song)" is a tad too simplistic and has not aged well at all, but the pairing of "Nighthawk (Vampire Blues)" and "The Time Is Right for Love" provides an amazingly succinct look back (the first is built upon a very Purple-esque stop-start riff) and ahead (the second introduces a cool melodic recipe which would characterize the band's later-day sound). The title track represents the album's high-water mark, its rollicking blues shuffle declaring it a worthy successor to Coverdale's original tour de force with Purple, "Mistreated." A few unexpected oddities throw the album off-balance here and there, not least of which the instrumental jam "Belgian Tom's Hat Trick" and an unexpected, stuttering cover of the Beatles' "Daytripper," but all things considered, it is easy to understand why Trouble turned out to be the first step in a long, and very successful career.

tags: whitesnake, white snake, trouble, 1978, flac,

Whitesnake - Lovehunter (1979)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1979-1987 EMI Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
For all of its musical merits, Whitesnake's second full-length album, Lovehunter, is probably best remembered for its lurid cover painting (featuring a very naked female and a very large snake) rather than the band's ever-improving recipe for blues-infected hard rock. The group's performance in the studio environment remains strangely tame, however, and though blaming the producer seems like the obvious explanation, one has to wonder if this is the case when a veteran like Martin Birch (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath) is at the helm. Still, all things considered, the record is quite consistent; the band is equally at home rocking through the foot-stomping "Long Way From Home," and gliding through the bluesy ballad "Help Me Thro' the Day." "Walking in the Shadow of the Blues" combines near-perfect songwriting with one of Coverdale's maturest and most compelling lyrics, while the masterful slide guitar of Mickey Moody literally ignites the awesome title track. The gorgeously simple piano treatment of "We Wish You Well" closes the disc in fine fashion.

tags: whitesnake, white snake, lovehunter, love hunter, flac, 1979,

Whitesnake - Come An' Get It (1981)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1981-1987 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Despite the massive talents of vocalist David Coverdale and his supporting cast of musicians (not to mention the unimpeachable resum├ę of producer Martin Birch), Come an' Get It was another maddeningly average Whitesnake album. A thoroughly boring set that played it too safe and yielded no lasting live favorites, Come an' Get It was competent to the max -- in the hands of a debuting artist, it may have qualified as a classic -- but for a near-supergroup of such experience and pedigree, it instead smacked of severe underachievement. Rare highlights include the driving energy of "Hot Stuff," the lively bar-room piano of "Wine, Women and Song," and the wistful, acoustic balladry of "Till the Day I Die." But these share space with run-of-the-mill bluesy rockers like "Don't Break My Heart Again" and "Would I Lie to You" -- all of them hard to fault, but equally impossible to praise. Yawn! Even the quasi-epic "Child of Babylon" fails to live up to initial promise, a half-hearted effort that easily defines the entire record's abiding sense of indifference. No doubt a reflection of Coverdale's own fluctuating interest in the group, Come an' Get It's confounding mediocrity would thankfully give way to the just as inexplicable brilliance of 1982's Saints & Sinners and 1984's Slide It In -- a two-towered climax of Whitesnake's career that displayed a newfound zest in urgency and inspiration.

tags: whitesnake, come an get it, 1981, flac, white snake,

Psycho Realm - A War Story: Book II (2004)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
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© 2004 Sick Symphonies ‎
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: psycho realm, a war story book 2, book ii, flac, 2004,

August 25, 2017

Mariah Carey - Emotions (1991)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, R&B
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© 1991 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Ashley S. Battel
A strong follow-up to Mariah Carey's self-titled debut album, Emotions puts to rest any concern of a "sophomore slump." The same mix of dance/R&B/ballads that gave Carey's debut such tremendous auditory appeal can be found with equal strength on this release, indicating that placing firm belief in the notion of "Why fool with success?" may, in fact, have its merits. Most notably, the gospel influences of "If It's Over" (with music co-written by Carole King), the yearning cries for a lost love in "Can't Let Go," and the catchy, upbeat title track all serve to send the listener on a musical journey filled with varying emotions. However, the one emotion that prevails upon completion of the album is definitely a positive one: satisfaction.

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P!nk - Try This (Limited Edition) (2003)

*European release. Contains 15 tracks total. Bonus DVD not included.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, Pop Rock
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© 2003 Artista, BMG Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Of all the dance-pop/teen pop singers to emerge in 1999, Pink seemed the least likely to have success. She didn't have an easy-to-market image like Britney or Christina, nor were her singles all that distinctive, so it was a real shock when she reinvented herself as a badass dance-rock chick for her second album, M!ssundaztood. It wasn't just that the album revealed a unique, forceful personality; it was that it crafted an original, dynamic sound from seemingly contradictory sources, as Pink hauled out forgotten 4 Non Blondes leader Linda Perry for her primary collaborator, piled on the hard rock riffs, and sharpened up the R&B rhythms, while writing as nakedly as a confessional singer/songwriter. It was a big surprise that Pink had an album like M!ssundaztood in her, but that surprise is nearly equalled by its successor, Try This, which proves that she can pull off the same trick twice -- an unpredictable giant leap forward, assisted by unlikely collaborators, that winds up being among the best pop music of its given year. While Perry is still around, she only collaborates on three tracks, since Pink has picked another left-field choice for her main co-writer/producer for Try This: Tim Armstrong, one of the lead singer/songwriters for the acclaimed neo-punk band Rancid. Armstrong co-writes and produces eight of the 13 songs here, and while it's true that he helps steer Pink into harder-rocking territory, the end result isn't quite as simple as Try This being a straight-up rock & roll album. Instead, hard rock is used as the foundation for the record (even some of the Perry-written tracks rock very hard), and then it stretches out into several different styles and sounds. Some are familiar -- there's a handful of dance-oriented tracks, a quiet ballad, such as the closer, "Love Song" -- but, like M!ssundaztood, this is pop music that knows no boundaries, borrowing ideas from punk, soul, ska, new wave, and electronica to create an exhilarating listen that crackles with energy and inventiveness. This music has reference points, some intentional and some not -- the similarities of "Trouble" and Nirvana's cover of the Vaselines' "Molly's Lips" may be on purpose, but the echoes of Blur's "Pressure on Julian" on "God Is a DJ" is surely coincidental -- but it's presentation is original and exceptionally well-written. This time around, she's not as consciously confessional, which makes for a nice fit for Armstrong's strong sense of songcraft and pop hooks, resulting in music that is immediately grabbing yet so sturdily crafted it only seems stronger, even catchier, with repeated listens. While Pink's peers take incremental, cautious artistic steps forward, she's slyly fearless, choosing the right collaborators that help her create pop music that has both style and substance to spare. Britney Spears, Pink's avowed arch-nemesis, may claim that she's taking advice from Madonna, but here Pink illustrates that she's the true heir to Madonna's throne, since she displays a restlessness similar to the Material Girl in the '80s, while never once sounding like Madonna -- or other spiritual predecessors like Pat Benatar, Stevie Nicks, or Debbie Harry, for that matter. With Try This, Pink has firmly established a voice of her own, and in doing so, she's made another tremendous modern pop record.

tags: pink, try this, 2003, limited edition, flac, p!nk,

August 24, 2017

Mary J. Blige - What's The 411? (1992)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 1992 Uptown Records
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart
With this cutting-edge debut, Mary J. Blige became the reigning queen of her own hybrid category: hip-hop soul. The eloquence and evocativeness that comes through in her voice, could be neither borrowed nor fabricated, making What's the 411? one of the decade's most explosive, coming-out displays of pure singing prowess. "Real Love" and the gospel-thrusted "Sweet Thing" (the primary reason for all her Chaka Kahn comparisons) are and will remain timeless slices of soul even after their trendiness has worn off, and "You Remind Me" and the duet with Jodeci's K-Ci ("I Don't Want to Do Anything") are nearly as affecting in their own right. It's nevertheless unclear how much of the hip-hop swagger in her soul was a genuine expression of Blige's own vision or that of her admittedly fine collaborators (Svengali Sean "Puffy" Combs, R&B producers Dave Hall and DeVante Swing, rap beatsmith Tony Dofat, rapper Grand Puba). Certainly the singer comes across as street-savvy and tough -- "real," in the lingo of the day -- and even tries her hand at rhyming on the title track, but never again would her records lean this heavily on the sonic tricks of the rap trade. In retrospect, it is easier to place the album into the context of her career and, as such, to pinpoint the occasions when it runs wide of the rails. For instance, the synthesizer-heavy backdrops ("Reminisce," "Love No Limit") are sometimes flatter or more plastic than either the songs or Blige's passionate performances deserve, while the answering-machine skits, much-copied in the wake of What's the 411?, haven't worn well as either stand-alone tracks or conceptual segues. In fact, those who prefer their soul more stirring, heart-on-sleeve, or close to the bone would likely find her fluid, powerfully vulnerable next recording (My Life) or one of the consistently strong subsequent efforts that followed it more to their liking. For broad appeal and historical importance, though, What's the 411? is an inarguably paramount and trailblazing achievement.

tags: mary j blige, whats the 411, 1992, flac, what's the 411?,

Mary J. Blige - Love & Life (2003)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 2003 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Mary J. Blige has made it clear in virtually all of her TV appearances and interviews surrounding her sixth studio album that she's happy with the way things have been going for her, both personally and professionally. That's more than apparent -- albeit detrimentally apparent -- throughout Love & Life, an album that sees her linking back up with production from P. Diddy and company. The down side is that you can tell that her heart isn't as into the songs that deal with the nastier aspects of relationships. It's that distance that holds the album back from being one of her best; neither she nor her partners should've felt obligated to cover so much emotional territory, especially when an album's worth of material here (at least 40 of the 70 minutes) beams with joy (and/or desire) and goes along with where she's at right now. Even on the somewhat clunky lead single, "Love @ 1st Sight," Blige's uplifted spirit is as contagious as it has ever been, and just the sound of her voice is enough to get by on. Though her re-pairing with P. Diddy doesn't return her to the glory of What's the 411?, at least half a dozen cuts will vie for slots on a future best-of. For 11 years running, Blige remains a durable and consistent artist, and no one is on the verge of dethroning her.

tags: mary j blige, love and life, love & life, 2003, flac,

Mary J. Blige - Stronger With Each Tear (2009)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 2009 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Stronger with Each Tear's first four songs are decorated like NASCAR vehicles, with IDs from the Runners and Akon, Rodney Jerkins, Ryan Leslie, Stereotypes, and T.I. all heard before the voice of Mary J. Blige enters the mix. Sound logos and gratuitous self-serving plugs from producers and guest MCs are nothing new in mainstream R&B, but when an album by Mary J. Blige is dominated by them, in such an extended succession, a longtime follower’s minor irritation has the potential to turn to low-level rage. And while it is also understandable that the appearance of 2009 breakout star Drake on “The One” will help boost sales, the disparity is glaring; the MC was five years old when What’s the 411? was released. Trey Songz, featured on another track, wasn’t much older. Even when factoring these matters, Stronger with Each Tear is a very good Blige album, if not a classic. One of her briefest sets, it is tremendously (almost studiously) balanced between all the ground she has covered so well before. That’s no criticism, though, since most of the songs are easily memorable and display so much range. Those who detest “The One” on principle, for its use of Auto-Tune, need only to forward to the album’s final song, a quiet and sparse throwback (to 40-plus years ago) production from Raphael Saadiq in which Blige professes new love to chilling effect.

tags: mary j blige, stronger with each tear, 2009, flac,