October 31, 2017

Halford - Metal God Essentials Vol.1 (Limited Edition) (2007)

*U.K. release. Contains a second disc with 4 bonus tracks.

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2007 Metal God Entertainment
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
While he'll always be known first and foremost as the prototypical heavy metal frontman of Judas Priest, Rob Halford spent much of the '90s away from the group (before returning in the early 21st century). During this time, the singer certainly didn't go silent, as he launched several projects -- the Pantera-esque Fight, the Nine Inch Nails-esque Two, and ultimately, a return to his Priest roots, Halford. The 16-track compilation, 2007's Metal God Essentials, Vol. 1, contains highlights from two of these three Halford-led groups (Two is the only project nowhere to be found here). But this is not a straight-ahead best-of set, as the majority of the tracks from the Fight era ("Into the Pit," "Nailed to the Gun," "War of Words") are demo recordings. And while another demo, "Silent Screams," shows the metal god in a tranquil mood, the majority of the tracks here are good old-fashioned, speaker melting metal, as evidenced by the inclusion of such ditties as "Made in Hell," "Golgotha," and "Locked and Loaded." Also included is a pair of all-new Halford tracks, "Forgotten Generation" and "Drop Out" (which serves as a sneak peak of the forthcoming Halford release).

tags: halford, metal god essentials vol 1, 2007, limited edition, flac,

Boyz II Men - Cooleyhighharmony (1991) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1991 Motown Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
No mere breakthrough, 1991's Cooleyhighharmony was one of the decade's biggest debuts, setting Boyz II Men well on their path to becoming what the RIAA certified the most successful R&B group of all time. Their sound, dubbed "hip-hop doo-wop" and aided in large part by the productions and arrangements of Dallas Austin, was a shrewd and flexible mix of contemporary and throwback elements. Fully exploiting the members' stunning vocal chops on ballads as a close harmony group, while hardly washed out when matched with densely layered upbeat material (new jack swing was still in full flight), the group put a mature collegiate spin on what were, at the time, the last two New Edition albums, updating the techniques reminiscent of the doo wop covered on Under the Blue Moon within a set that was as modern-sounding as the singles off Heart Break. It contains that rare mix of hot singles with several album cuts that could have just as easily been hits, the ultimate measure of a release that is both commercially and creatively successful. While the album was carried by four Top Ten R&B singles, two of which -- the swinging, anthemic "Motownphilly" and an a cappella version of the Cooley High soundtrack's "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday," the tear duct activator of 1991/1992 -- went Top Five on the pop chart, there is substantial depth. The non-single highlights include the sweet slow jam "This Is My Heart," sonically somewhere between Gwen Guthrie's "Outside in the Rain" and an organic Babyface ballad, and the frantic new jack swinger "Under Pressure," perhaps too much like "Motownphilly" or Dallas Austin's most chaotic Bomb Squad-inspired productions. In its original ten-song form, in fact, Cooleyhighharmony is a brisk 40-minute set built for front-to-back listening, though the sequencing is more natural with the "adagio" and "allegro" halves switched up. For many of those responsible for its multi-platinum status, it is the album of the early '90s, "Uhh Ahh"'s amusing libidinal melisma notwithstanding.

tags: boyz ii men, cooleyhighharmony, coolie high harmony, 1991, flac,

Boyz II Men - Evolution (1997) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1997 Motown Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Evolution is supposed to capture Boyz II Men in full maturity, but it sounds surprisingly similar to their blockbuster II. Like that album, Evolution relies on ballads, downplaying the group's dance-pop side. There are still several up-tempo numbers on the record, but it's clear that the group and their producers were more concerned with smooth ballads like "4 Seasons of Loneliness" and "A Song for Mama," which they deliver with typical grace. However, Boyz II Men's signature sound is beginning to sound like a formula, especially since the group fails to offer any new twists on their trademark hip-hop doo wop. There's enough strong material on Evolution to satisfy Boyz II Men's large fan base, but they will truly need to evolve on their fourth album in order to stay viable.

tags: boyz ii men, evolution, 1997, flac,

Boyz II Men - Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA (2007)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 2007 Decca, UMTV
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Three years after the all-covers Throwback -- a release that included some pleasantly surprising choices for new looks, like One Way's "Cutie Pie" and Bobby Caldwell's "What You Won't Do for Love" -- Boyz II Men reappear with yet another covers affair. As indicated by the title, the trio changes its focus to Motown for a set that ranges thematically and chronologically from the Temptations' "Just My Imagination" to Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" to the Commodores' "Easy" -- and, as something of a sly acknowledgment that they were once on Motown themselves, they close out the set with an a cappella version of "End of the Road" (featuring Brian McKnight). Their backing is mostly all-star caliber, including the Dap-Kings Horns, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, percussionist Luis Conte, and string arranger Larry Gold. The material tends to work best when they sound relatively relaxed, as opposed to when it is obvious that they are trying very hard to honor the originals while being over-demonstrative with their obviously gifted voices. It's not that the disc won't please fans, because it likely will, despite Boyz II Men's continued shortage of new songs; but it's nearly impossible at this point to add anything to the likes of "It's the Same Old Song," "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," or "Money (That's What I Want)" -- no matter how well they are handled.

tags: boyz ii men, motown a journey through hitsville usa, flac, 2007,

Boyz II Men - Full Circle (2002)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 2002 Artista Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Boyz II Men grew up with 2000's Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya, providing a really fine, mature urban soul album, but not many noticed, so it was time for another new start in 2002. They left Motown and signed with Arista, where Antonio "L.A." Reid had successfully set up shop, breaking new acts and re-establishing old ones -- with the latter clearly in mind when he executive produced Boyz II Men's Full Circle, with the Boyz handling production duties. Everybody involved apparently decided that the best way to bring the boyz into the 2000s is by hedging their bets: offering a little of the stilted, early-'80s funk-influenced hip-hop that marked modern soul, while offering a lot of adult contemporary balladry. Although the group doesn't delve too hard into funk, it still doesn't mesh particularly well together, especially since the material, while well-sung as ever, isn't particularly distinguished. That doesn't mean it's bad -- the album is pleasant enough as it spins -- but it's simply not that memorable, which is quite a disappointment after the very, very nice Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya.

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Boyz II Men - II (1994) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1994 Motown Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
With their second album, II, Boyz II Men assured their place at the top of the charts, as well as history. "I'll Make Love to You," the album's first single, stayed on the top of the charts for over two months, only to be unseated by "On Bended Knee," the album's second single. Not surprisingly, II is a carefully constructed crowd pleaser, accentuating all of the finest moments from their hit debut. While there are some high-energy dance tracks, the album's main strength is its slower numbers, where the group's vocals soar.

tags: boyz ii men, ii, II, 2, 1994, flac,

Boyz II Men - Love (2009)

*European release. Contains 1 bonus track. 13 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 2009 Decca
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
The title of Boyz II Men’s third consecutive covers album is only partially indicative. The love songs covered on this disc span several decades and styles, unlike Throwback (‘70s and early-‘80s funk and soul) and Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA (self-explanatory), both of which were more focused thematically. What ties these songs together is that they are love songs, and nothing else. That early-‘60s R&B (Sam Cooke’s “Cupid”), late-‘90s country (Lonestar’s “Amazed”), and early-‘80s rock (Journey’s “Open Arms,” a choice likely influenced by producer Randy Jackson) are all part of the mix only hints at the randomness of the selections. Despite the range of the sources, Boyz II Men tie it all together, nearly to a fault. The group makes the occasional modification to the originals, like the ticking-clock vocal effect on Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”; otherwise, if you know the originals, and you know Boyz II Men, you can play these versions in your head without having heard them.

tags: boyz ii men, love, 2009, flac,

Boyz II Men - Throwback (2004)

*Also known as "Throwback Vol. 1"
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 2004 Koch Records
AllMusic Review by Rob Theakston
In the careers of nearly all adult contemporary artists, there is almost an unspoken, obligatory feeling that compels them to pay homage to their roots and inspirations by issuing covers albums. Sometimes these approaches work wonders for a career (case in point: the rejuvenation of Michael McDonald's career courtesy of a record chock-full of Motown covers, which was the defibrillator to an otherwise pulseless career), and sometimes they don't. Thankfully, the Boyz get it right most of the time on Throwback, but not without some setbacks. The reverence that the Boyz show here is evident by their sincere performances and track selection, which obviously pay homage to the radio and records they grew up with (which is self-evident thanks to the title). However, it's the production that is the dragging anchor keeping this album from really setting sail the way it begs to. Resorting to formulaic cookie-cutter R&B beats and production deters from the group's biggest strength: their voices. Of course, there are exceptions from time to time: an all-acoustic delivery of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," the Philly soul goodness of Teddy Pendergrass' "Close the Door," and a surprisingly faithful arrangement of the Stylistics' "You Make Me Feel Brand New" all bring their true talents to the forefront. The vocals are just as sharp as ever, especially on their stirring interpretations of Hall & Oates' "Sara Smile" and "Human Nature." It's not a watershed moment in their catalog, but for those die-hard fans who simply love the group, it's an engaging listen and a charming audio yearbook.

tags: boyz ii men, throwback, throwback vol 1, 2004, flac,

Boyz II Men - Twenty (2011)

*Contains 2 discs.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 2011 MSM/Benchmark
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Disc one of Twenty constitutes Boyz II Men's first full-length set of original material since 2002’s Full Circle, an album released just prior to the departure of bass vocalist Michael McCary. The title here isn’t the only manner in which the group acknowledges its longevity. They work with past collaborators such as Tim & Bob, Teddy Riley, and Babyface, each of whom either produces or co-produces three tracks. Rather than attempt to compete with younger acts on the charts, they largely stick to their tried and true approach and appeal to their longtime listeners. Some of the slower songs get a little raunchy, but most of them -- highlighted by “More Than You’ll Ever Know,” featuring Charlie Wilson -- switch between romantic pleading and uplifting/inspirational modes. It’s their most enjoyable work since 2000’s Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya. On the second disc, Boyz II Men cover themselves. In some cases, the new looks at their hits are closer to re-creations than reinterpretations, with only slight variations on the vocal and instrumental arrangements. That Boyz II Men still have it, both individually and collectively, is undeniable; their group harmonies sound as easy as ever. That’s what they had over most contemporary R&B acts in 1991, and that's what they have over all of them in 2011.

tags: boyz ii men, twenty, 2011, flac,

October 30, 2017

The Beatles - 1 (2000) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Rock
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 2000 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Apparently, there was a gap in the Beatles' catalog, after all -- all the big hits weren't on one tidy, single-disc compilation. It's not the kind of gap you'd necessarily notice -- it's kind of like realizing you don't have a pair of navy blue dress socks -- but it was a gap all the same, so the group released The Beatles 1 late in 2000, coinciding with the publication of their official autobiography, the puzzlingly titled Anthology. The idea behind this compilation is to have all the number one singles the Beatles had, either in the U.K. or U.S., on one disc, and that's pretty much what this generous 27-track collection is. It's easy, nay, necessary, to quibble with a couple of the judgment calls -- look, "Please Please Me" should be here instead of "From Me to You," and it's unforgivable to bypass "Strawberry Fields Forever" (kick out "Yellow Submarine" or "Eleanor Rigby") -- but there's still no question that this is all great music, and there is a bit of a rush hearing all these dazzling songs follow one after another. If there's any complaint, it's that even if it's nice to have something like this, it's not really essential. There's really no reason for anyone who owns all the records to get this too -- if you've lived happily without the red or blue albums, you'll live without this. But, if you give this to any six or seven year old, they'll be a pop fan, even fanatic, for life. And that's reason enough for it to exist.

tags: the beatles, 1, 2000, flac,

October 29, 2017

Y&T - Facemelter (2010)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 2010 Meanstreak Music Co.
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
That's one serious title Y&T have come up with for their 12th studio album overall, eh? It's hard to believe it's been 13 years since this California-based melodic metal outfit last issued an all-new studio recording, but longtime fans will agree it's better late then never -- especially after hearing 2010's Facemelter. There may be only two members still on board from the group's early- to mid-‘80s peak (that would be original members singer/guitarist Dave Meniketti and bassist Phil Kennemore), but with hair metal bands from the aforementioned era experiencing a serious resurgence in the early 21st century, the Y&T chaps couldn't have picked a better time to enter a recording studio once more. And instead of tinkering with their sound, Y&T have created an album that is an exact replica sonically of such popular releases as 1983's Mean Streak and 1984's In Rock We Trust (which just happen to be the group's best-selling albums). Yearning for the tough yet melodic sound that Y&T helped popularize way back when? You're in luck throughout Facemelter -- especially on such standouts as "On with the Show," "Shine On," and "Wild Child," all of which would have fit perfectly on the two aforementioned albums, and gloriously feature Meniketti's Sammy Hagar-esque vocals. And like all mainstream metal acts from the ‘80s, there's the obligatory sappy power ballad included as well -- "If You Want Me." It sounds like absolutely no time has passed from Y&T's mid-‘80s peak to Facemelter, which leads you to wonder...have Y&T discovered a heavy metal time machine?

tags: y & t, y&t, facemelter, 2010, flac, face melter,

Def Leppard - Retro Active (1993)

*Compilation featuring outtakes and leftover tracks.

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1993 Mercury Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Retro Active is a collection of outtakes and leftovers spanning Def Leppard's entire career. Kicking off the disc, "Desert Song" and "Fractured Love" are two of its most distinctive tracks, harkening back to the band's early (pre-success) days with their rough power chords. After paying homage to some of their heroes with a set of covers (Sweet's "Action" and Mick Ronson's "Only After Dark"), the band tackles a couple of solid, but hardly groundbreaking ballads -- "Two Steps Behind" and "Miss You in a Heartbeat" -- before stretching out (with mixed results) on the folky "From the Inside." Taken from the Hysteria sessions, the classy "I Wanna Be Your Hero" is another pleasant surprise, and the band reaches all the way back to the beginning by re-recording their first demo "Ride into the Sun." Overall, this is an interesting release which marks the end of a long chapter in the band's history, following the death of guitarist and guiding force Steve Clark. While casual fans might find it confusing, Leppard fanatics will revel in its diversity and informative liner notes.

tags: def leppard, retro active, 1993, flac,

October 28, 2017

Y&T - Yesterday And Today (1976)

*Original first pressing on C.D.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1976-1992 Mondo Records Corporation
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: y&t, y & t, yesterday and today, 1972, flac,

Y&T - Struck Down (1978)

Original first pressing on C.D.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1978-1992 Mondo Records Corporation
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Struck Down was Yesterday & Today's second long-player, and their last release prior to changing their name to Y&T in the early '80s. And though not as consistent as the band's rock-solid debut two years earlier, it too collects a wealth of enjoyable material performed by an already very confident and mature band. Most noticeable of all, Struck Down is astoundingly heavy for its time, with high-energy cuts like the title track, "Road," and "Dreams of Egypt" packing loads of guts and swagger and evincing a bite which aptly captures the band's legendary live power onto vinyl. A few pedestrian moments, including the cheesy shuffle "Nasty Sadie," the rather one-dimensional "I'm Lost," and the psychedelic anachronism "Stargazer" keep this from being a fully satisfactory set, but they certainly could have done a lot worse.

tags: y&t, y & t, struck down, 1978, flac,

Y&T - Contagious (1987)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock, Glam Metal
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© 1987 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
After years of professional frustration with little to show for their efforts, Y&T parted with longtime label A&M to seek out pop-metal salvation at the hands of A&R guru John Kalodner and the red-hot Geffen Records. But although 1987's Contagious was given the same Kalodner treatment (party lyrics, gang vocals, synthesizer splashes, sugar-coated guitar riffs, etc.) which led to Aerosmith's miraculous comeback the same year, Dave Meniketti and crew would have no such luck. From the very first "hey!" which launches the bombastic title track (a barely disguised rehash of Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer"), Contagious is your textbook example of sleek, over-produced '80s pop-metal: all fluff and frilly shirts, no substance. Mid-paced melodic rockers like "L.A. Rocks" and "The Kid Goes Crazy" peddle their numbskull choruses ad nausea, to the point of embarrassment, actually. It may have worked for any number of lesser hair bands with prettier faces, but not for Y&T, who also managed to alienate whatever was left of their original audience in the process. And even though they would take another stab at it with the somewhat improved Ten, Contagious effectively signaled Y&T's death knell.

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Y&T - Ten (1990)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1990 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
By the time Y&T released Ten in 1990, they were well past their prime, but they at least had the chance of riding the tail-end of the hair metal era. However, Ten just didn't deliver the goods. "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" has a good riff, but much of the record lacks a strong hook -- it's just well-produced, slick mainstream metal without much style or flair. It's no surprise that the group packed it in (albeit temporarily) shortly after the release of Ten.

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Nickelback - Dark Horse (2008)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Post Grunge
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© 2008 Roadrunner Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Nickelback are not known for their insight, but Chad Kroeger's caterwauling claim that "we got no class, no taste" on "Burn It to the Ground," the second song on their sixth album, Dark Horse, is a slice of perceptive, precise self-examination. Nickelback are a gnarled, vulgar band reveling in their ignorance of the very notion of taste, lacking either the smarts or savvy to wallow in bad taste so they just get ugly, knocking out knuckle-dragging riffs that seem rarefied in comparison to their thick, boneheaded words. Of the two, the music is far less offensive, particularly on Dark Horse, where they work with the legendary producer Robert "Mutt" Lange, the sonic architect behind Back in Black and Pyromania, two of hard rock's towering monuments. Mutt Lange decides to give Nickelback a production caught somewhere between the two extremes of AC/DC and Def Leppard, pumping up some muscle on Nickelback's heaviest rockers and adding some color to their power ballads, suggesting some heretofore verboten suggestions of modernity in the form of electronic rhythms, even taking it to the extreme of adding drum loops to the surefire crossover hit "Gotta Be Somebody." Nickelback do manage to shed their leathery rock skin a couple of times, first with an arena-rocking "Burn It to the Ground" and then echoing Toby Keith's "Let's Talk About Us" on the white-boy rap pre-chorus for "Something in Your Mouth," but these are mere glimpses of something unpredictable; Dark Horse was constructed entirely from the group's standard templates of bleating power ballads and dulled hard rock.
These two sounds have been the group's trademark for a while now, ever since Kroeger started plumbing the depths of his shallow soul to spit out invective toward lovers and fathers on 2001's Silver Side Up, but stardom has stripped away all lingering angst, leaving behind slow songs about love and fast songs about partying, all designed to woo women he'll later hate. Underneath the housewife-hooking power ballads -- "I'd Come for You," "If Today Was Your Last Day" -- plus "Just to Get High," an ode to a fallen junkie friend that's part of the proud tradition that stretches back to at least Body Count's "The Winner Loses," Dark Horse seethes with ugly misogyny, as Kroeger trots out a parade of dirty little ladies in pretty pink thongs, porn stars, strippers, and sluts, all of whom are desired and despised for showing too much skin. Kroeger may claim that "S is for the simple need/E is for the ecstasy" in his middle-school chant "S.E.X.," but there is no joy in his carnality, just bleak veiled violence, and that nasty undercurrent undercuts his pleading lovesick ballads; he's either had his heart broken by those loose women, or he's singing to the good girl left at home while he's out on the town. This all turns Dark Horse into a murky, wearying listen, with the mood only lightening at the end of the record, when Kroeger and company take a break from carousing to kick back with bros and a bong for "This Afternoon" -- its strum-along choruses are a relief but so is its mellowness, as Kroeger seems calmer, relaxed, even friendly. Maybe it's because there were no women in the picture.

tags: nickelback, dark horse, 2008, flac,

October 27, 2017

Nickelback - Curb (2002 Reissue)

*Reissued in 2002 by Roadrunner Records
Track list remains the same (12 tracks total.)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Post Grunge
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© 1996-2002 Roadrunner Records
Review by David Rafaello Musicomh.com
Nickelback’s first album has finally been released in this country, six years after its North American outing. Aficionados have known it for long as an import and may originally have been drawn to subsequent Nickelback releases because of the promise of this album.
But in 2002 it is hugely disappointing. It is stuck in a time capsule labelled ‘mid-90s paralysis’ – and it is perhaps to the credit of Nickelback that they’ve gone on to produce new and interesting sentiments and sounds. So, the question arises: why has this album been released here? The answer surely is to cash in on the momentary fame and success of the group. All Nickelback camp followers will go out and buy it. Most will subsequently bite their lip and proclaim its genius, but privately they’ll not play it often because it offers nothing to please.
It’s hard to think of another recent release by any major force that is so monochromatic and derivative. So Canadian. Why does Chad Kroeger affect that accent that slides between the deep South and Seattle, but stop short of the Canadian border? He’s trying to be Kurt Cobain, but he neither understands the existential crisis nor has the guts to do anything about it – constructive or de-constructive. Perhaps because he’s written most of this stuff, it’s just as well we can only imperfectly understand it. I guess I could give myself up to the head-banging throb and forget about the words, but I do really wonder then why there are any words at all.
Some of this is good, such as Just Four. However, most of it is dull. The little guitar riffs are brief, unimaginative, and cheap. In Pusher Kroeger really punishes his Cobain impersonation – and thereby forces every intelligent listener to reflect sadly on what has been lost. This is hard rock (the ‘post-grunge’ tag usually applied to Nickelback is far too spongy), head-banging stuff, raging – at least in the sound if not the lyrics – against the human condition.
Unfortunately the lyrics mostly stray unnecessarily into sensationalism – a trait Nickelback has conspicuously not shed in subsequent albums – but it’s all rather surreal and tacky. Whether it’s an oblique reference to Jim Morrison’s faux-pas – which I doubt – or not, the words ‘for her and I’ in Fly grate horribly. Surely it must be possible to use both provocative and user-friendly language at the same time. Indeed, I know it is possible, because I do it all the time.
Where are we? At its best Nickelback has produced in Curb an album which sent me back to Led Zeppelin – the later years – and of course Nirvana. But I also revisited Pearl Jam, and I was reminded of the great variety and inventiveness of the CD offerings. Sadly none of this is to be found in Curb. My guess is that those who already have an imported version of it are the only ones likely to enjoy it.

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Nickelback - Silver Side Up (2001) ☠

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Post Grunge
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2001 Roadrunner Records
AllMusic Review by Liana Jonas
Industrial-strength rock & roll is back with a vengeance on the earnest Silver Side Up by Nickelback. The band wastes no time in getting into its brand of dark, high-octane rock. The album opener "Never Again," about spousal abuse, thrusts out of the starting gate with rocket-fueled intensity. Lead singer/guitarist/lyricist Chad Kroeger does not mince words in his portrayals of the darker sides of the human experience, and that is what Silver Side Up is essentially about. Nickelback's music is issue-oriented on the domestic and personal front, and it's a refreshing change of pace in 2001's sea of angry rockers. Another familial subject is tackled on the pounding "Too Bad." The song describes an emotionally and physically absent father figure as seen through the eyes of a regretful adult-child looking back. The cut that broke the band to mainstream audiences is "How You Remind Me," a thundering, mid-tempo rock track marked by thick chords and a brooding tone. Kroeger's voice is filled with weariness as he well captures the self-defeated feelings one experiences when being emotionally dissected by a lover. Such words as "'cause living with me must have damn near killed you" painfully zero in on the breakdown of the human spirit when it's badgered enough. Because, sadly, many have found themselves in this situation, the song connects with listeners. Coupled with a powerful and moody soundtrack, it's no wonder it took off on the radio. Grunge pays a visit on the set's closing number, "Good Times Gone." This well-crafted song slowly builds in intensity -- from the intro's fingered guitar notes and understated vocals, to the gradual addition of instruments, to Kroeger's explosive vocal release at the song's end, which retreats back into softly strummed guitar notes. "Good Times Gone" is reminiscent of a Pearl Jam number, and this is no surprise; Silver Side Up was co-produced by Rick Parashar, who has worked with Seattle's finest. Nickelback's style is edgy aggressive rock peppered with a taste of grunge. The band can easily sit alongside Staind and 3 Doors Down, among other like acts. However, what Nickelback has in spades and what gives the group an upper hand over its peers is intensity and raw passion. Some bands finger the crap out of their guitars and relentlessly beat away at the drums, crafting songs that boast the intensity of an electric storm. Nickelback ups the ante by offering realistic storytelling that listeners can relate to.

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Nickelback - The State (2000 Reissue)

*Reissued in 2000 by EMI Canada
Track list remains the same (11 tracks total.)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Post Grunge
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© 1998-2000 EMI Music Canada
AllMusic Review by JT Griffith
The music on Nickelback's 2000 album The State is a consistent roots rock metal hybrid seemingly tailored for modern rock radio. Songs like "Breathe" and "Cowboy Hat" sound a bit like Fuel or Silverchair. Fans of Jimmy Eat World, Drowning Pool, Godsmack, P.O.D., and Stroke 9 will likely get into Nickelback, but little distinguishes them from so many other moderately bombastic rockers with acoustic leanings. And the inclusion of an acoustic version of "Leader of Men" would be more impressive if the song were not so bland and still strangely familiar. "Old Enough" may actually be familiar to the few who own the soundtrack to Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows. The State is a dull example of alternative generica.

tags: nickelback, the state, 1998, 2000, reissue, flac,

Nickelback - The Long Road (2003) ☠

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Post Grunge
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2003 Roadrunner Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Thanks to their smash number one hit "How You Remind Me," Nickelback became the poster boys for neo-grunge in 2001. Throughout that year and into the next, the band and its ham-fisted lead singer Chad Kroeger, who always seems on verge of a hernia, were omnipresent as they peddled their cleaned-up, streamlined amalgam of Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam. Those three bands were unpredictable and, in various ways, shunned success when they received it. Nickelback courts it through their audience-pleasing grunge pastiche, which treats the style as just another variation of hard rock. Of course, on the surface grunge was just modern hard rock, but upon further inspection it was an interesting, unruly beast, fueled by genuine passion and angst, which is why each band had a distinct sound and a different way of fleeing from the scene when it all became too much. Perhaps Kroeger and his cohorts in Nickelback are also fueled by real angst and just aren't capable of turning it into art, but 2003's The Long Road, the follow-up to their 2001 breakthrough, Silver Side Up, suggests that they really are just heavy-rock hucksters. After all, this is an album that ends with "See You at the Show," the neo-grunge "We're an American Band" that invites their audience to come along on the Nickelback bus and party down -- a sentiment that kind of undercuts the endless barrage of tortured lyrics that precede it. Perhaps a flat-out party song would have been a welcome change of pace, but it, like every other song here, is performed in the band's lumbering style -- clumsy rhythms, guitars run through too much processed distortion slashing away at power chords that are echoed by harmonies that are nothing but root and the fifth notes (call 'em power harmonies) and topped off by Kroeger's strained gruff vocals. It's the same sound as Silver Side Up, but it's a little bit more professional and polished, which does have the neat trick of sanding down some of Nickelback's strident tendencies, leaving behind a sleek album of theatrical angst. So, Nickelback is more palatable here, but that doesn't mean they're any easier to digest, since Kroeger's voice does not wear well and the band's humorlessness and relentlessly earnest somberness are oppressive. And, like with any post-Nirvana wallow in angst and torment, Nickelback doesn't vent specific problems; it's all a generic litany of the torture of relationships and the evil that dad did. Hell, Kurt Cobain didn't just vent -- he sang about being stranded with his grandparents, crafted a tongue-in-cheek ode to '70s pomp rock, covered, wrote, and sang sweet love songs, and tempered his pain with sardonic humor. Nickelback needs something to lighten the gloom, where even "Feelin' Way Too Damn Good" and its "doo-doo-doo" hooks (which sound lifted from Tenacious D, bizarrely enough) feel like a burden, not a relief. Of course, that set-closer, "See You at the Show," is supposed to be a change of pace, too, but instead it calls all the turmoil of the album into question, making it all seem like a cynical ploy (a suspicion that is reinforced by a startling list of 29 "endorsers" in the liner notes, who all provide the band with free musical equipment). These were all problems on Silver Side Up, but they resonate more on The Long Road since they are reflected in the production's shiny surface. Nickelback can now afford a little more time in the studio and a little more time to indulge themselves, and they turn out the same record, only slicker, which only highlights just how oppressively and needlessly sullen this group is.

tags: nickelback, the long road, 2003, flac,

October 26, 2017

Avril Lavigne - Let Go (2002) ☠

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2002 Artista Records
AllMusic Review by Christina Saraceno
Talk about pressure -- being under 21 and having a record deal no longer qualifies as extraordinary. And as mass-produced teen pop makes its exit and a glut of young singer/songwriters enter, child prodigies no longer have built-in marketing appeal. So if newcomer, 17-year-old Avril Lavigne truly wants to be "Anything But Ordinary," as she sings on her debut album, Let Go, she'll have to dig deeper. Luckily for Lavigne, aside from youth, she does have talent. Her debut runs the gamut from driving rock numbers like "Losing Grip" -- where Lavigne shows off her vocal range, powering into the anger-fueled, explosive rock chorus -- to singer/songwriter pop tunes like "My World," where Lavigne fills listeners in on the past 17 years of her life. Lavigne handles a variety of styles deftly, but she still has some growing up to do lyrically. "Sk8er Boi" has a terrific power pop bounce, but shows her lyrical shortcomings: "He was a punk/She did ballet/What more can I say" -- a lot. The phrasing is awkward and sometimes silly: "It's funny when you think it's gonna work out/Till you chose weed over me you're so lame," she sings on "Too Much to Ask." Not surprisingly, the standout track is the first single, "Complicated," a gem of a pop/rock tune with a killer chorus. But listen carefully and you'll realize that "Complicated"'s sing-song melody borrows just enough from Pink's "Don't Let Me Get Me" to make it familiar and likeable. Nonetheless, the song is a knockout radio hit. Lavigne, a self-professed skater punk and labelmate of Pink, shares her "Take Me As I Am" credo as well. And that said, it's hard not to look at this record, executive produced by Arista label head Antonio "L.A." Reid, who is thanked by Lavigne for allowing "me to be myself," and feel cynical about the music industry's willingness to reproduce a hit over and over. Lavigne, however, is a capable songwriter with vocal chops, and at her age, one imagines, she is still finding her feet, borrowing from the music she's grown up listening to. The problem is Lavigne is still so young she's listening to the radio hits of the '90s and early 2000s: she's Pink when she's bucking authority, Alanis Morissette when she's angry, and Jewel when she's sensitive. Let Go shows promise, but the question is whether Lavigne and only Lavigne will shine through on her next effort.
tags: avril lavigne, let go, 2002, flac,