March 31, 2018

Witchcraft - Legend (Limited Edition) (2012)

*Limited edition digipack release. Contains 1 bonus track. 10 tracks total. A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock, Doom Metal
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© 2012 Nuclear Blast Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Witchcraft's career appeared to be running on empty following the release of third album The Alchemist which, though graced with several memorable songs, once again failed to improve upon or evolve in any way beyond the Swedish group's watershed debut -- one of a handful of 21st century LPs responsible for renewing younger listeners' curiosity about heavy metal's primal '70s aesthetic. No breakup was ever officially announced but bandmembers quietly dispersed to the four winds: some duly resurfaced in a new band named Troubled Horse and there was talk of a pending solo album from Witchcraft leader Magnus Pelander, but this turned into a 2010 EP, and then, following two more years of suspenseful uncertainty, there came concrete news at last that his former band would indeed rise again. When it did, via 2012's portentously named Legend, Pelander and returning bassist Ola Henriksson were supported by new drummer Oscar Johansson and not one but two guitarists in Simon Solomon and Tom Jondelius, whose fluid musical interplay wound up driving and defining a relatively fresh creative direction for the reconstituted band. Gone, for the most part, is Witchcraft's penchant for hazy, drug-fueled sloth and demo-like production values (both of these attributes motivated by Pelander's original fixation on Pentagram), replaced by a brasher, more focused, latter-day doom and stoner rock attack redolent of Spirit Caravan, Sasquatch, or Sahg. Right off the bat, opening number "Deconstruction" may have best been named "reconstruction" in order to properly reflect the fuller, more urgent hard rock sound adopted by Witchcraft Mk II -- as well as the constantly shifting twin guitar riffs that effectively make it three songs in one. Later on, "Ghosts House" crescendos behind rousing, fleet-fingered melodies, "Dystopia" simply blends them with minor chords to chilling effect, and when "An Alternative to Freedom" introduces slides and a Southern rock soul to the party, eyebrows really start to arch (becoming one massive unibrow of wonder by the time the multi-faceted, 12-minute odyssey, "Dead End," has its say -- woooaaaahhhhh.) On the downside, though, Pelander's lyrics can still sound vague, confusing, or even downright silly at times (e.g. "It's Not Because of You," "Democracy"), and here's where the band's newly bombastic approach can help cover up a few blemishes while keeping the listener's pulse pumping like never before. No, Legend is obviously not perfect (never mind "legendary"), but there's nevertheless plenty of mesmerizing songcraft matched with these evolutionary nuances to inaugurate the second phase of Witchcraft's career with great promise. After all, the old band was never really broken so much as stagnant, and with that in mind, Legend feels exactly like the self-inflicted kick in the butt needed to set things to rights.

tags: witchcraft, legend, limited edition, 2012, flac,

Orgy - Candyass (1998)

Country: U.SA.
Genre: Industrial Music, Industrial Rock
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© 1998 Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It was only a matter of time before someone added obvious hooks and electronic smarts to the post-industrial roar of alt-metal. That's exactly what Orgy does on its debut album, Candyass. It's hard to call this stuff industrial, since its sensibilities are directly out of metal -- hard-hitting riffs, big hooks, and tight songwriting -- but since Orgy is living in the electronica age, everything is given a computerized surface, complete with processed guitars and thundering digital bits. It's a now sound, no two ways about -- it's of the moment, totally 1998, and that's why it's hard to actually judge its merits. Candyass has the intoxicating rush of a new sound, but it's hard not to feel like all of its pleasures are on the surface. Still, you take pleasures where you can get them, and Orgy offers more than expected on this promising debut.

tags: orgy, candyass, candy ass, 1998, flac,

Orgy - Vapor Transmission (2000)

Country: U.SA.
Genre: Industrial Music, Industrial Rock
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© 2000 Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Don Kline
In 1998, Orgy made an impressive entrance with their cover of New Order's "Blue Monday." Their follow-up single, "Stitches," was enough of a hit to give them the push they needed to remain mainstays on radio and MTV. With their second album Vapor Transmission, they return to deliver another set of electronic-laden rockers, but this time out they do so with slicker production and improved songwriting. Although proving to not be an album of innovation, what the sci-fi tinged Vapor Transmission does accomplish is showcasing more of the "pop" in Orgy's self-labeled "death pop" music by mixing an energetic blend of soaring singalong choruses, catchy hooks, layered guitars, and polished production techniques. Their signature guitar-synth drones are still present in the majority of the tracks, but this time out they share the limelight with Jay Gordon's improved vocal stylings and Ryan Shuck's more ambitious guitar work. Rather than repeating themselves or simply pairing heavy riffs with electro filler, there is a better sense of melody throughout Vapor's 13 tracks. One of the best examples of this is on "Opticon," a track with one of the most memorable choruses the band has delivered. Orgy has also raised the intensity level here. Mixing tones of Marilyn Manson, Gravity Kills, and even mentors Korn, they seem to be more comfortable experimenting with different dynamics, balancing delicate verses with thundering choruses, most notably on "Eva" and the album's first single, "Fiction (Dreams in Digital)." Although Vapor Transmission doesn't venture far from its roots in alt-metal and industrial rock, it is a worthy follow-up to 1998's Candyass and establishes Orgy as more than just a flash in the pan. [The initial shipment of albums sent out to stores contains a hidden track, located at 6:11 of track 13.]

tags: orgy, vapor transmission, 2000, flac,

Orgy - Punk Statik Paranoia (2004)

Country: U.SA.
Genre: Industrial Rock
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© 2004 D1 Music
AllMusic Review by John D. Luerssen
Best known for its hardened take on New Order's "Blue Monday," L.A.-based industrial rock act Orgy has been trying to trump Candyass since 1998. And although the band has had little success with subsequent efforts like 2000's inferior Vapor Transmission, the downward spiral continues on Punk Statik Paranoia. Tunes like "The Obvious" and "Vague" are as close as the Jay Gordon-fronted outfit comes to appealing, with a few hooks buried beneath all of the electronic metal posturing and inane lyrics. But by downplaying the synths that first made the group stand out from the original wave of nu-metal stylists, hard and brooding contributions like "Inside My Head" and "Leave Me Out" overrun the disc, making it largely redundant and regularly boring.

tags: orgy, punk, statik paranoia, 2004, flac,

March 30, 2018

Cinderella - Heartbreak Station (1990)

Country: U.SA.
Genre: Glam Metal, Hard Rock
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© 1990 Mercury Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
After successful albums that effectively followed contemporary hard rock trends, Cinderella reached back into the Stones and Aerosmith songbooks and created a sneering, raunchy hard rock album that was artistically their finest moment, even if it didn't reach the same commercial heights as its predecessors. But the sales figures don't matter (it only sold a million copies); Heartbreak Station shows that Cinderella has more genuine rock & roll grit than most of the metal bands of the late '80s.

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David Bowie - 1. Outside (1995)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Industrial Rock, Art Rock
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© 1995 Virgin Records
AllMusic Review by Roch Parisien
Outside bears the subtitle "The Diary of Nathan Adler or The Art-Ritual Murder of Baby Grace Blue. A Non-Linear Gothic Drama Hyper-Cycle." Alright, so it reeks of pretension. One belabors the point because Bowie at his best has always been pretentious, risque, creatively (if sometimes contrivedly) over the top. Outside marks the first in a planned series of collaborations with multi-instrumentalist, producer, and conceptualist Brian Eno based on a Bowie short story. In this end-of-millennium setting, "art-crimes" and "concept muggings" merit their own police division funded by the "Arts Protectorate of London." Echoes of the Berlin "outsider" Bowie/Eno '70s trilogy of Low, Heroes, and Lodger reverberate throughout, including a return to the "cut-and-paste" lyric-assembly method then employed, only this time fed through a Mac rather than more labor-intensive paper-and-scissors tools. The thusly fragmented "narrative" follows the investigations of Detective Professor Adler into the murder and subsequent dismembered body parts exhibition of 14-year-old runaway Baby Grace Blue. In this cut-up, composite world, each character, including Adler, Baby Grace, mixed-race youth Leon Blank, septuagenarian Algeria Touchshriek, and art-terrorist Ramona A. Stone, reflects a different aspect of Bowie himself and is therefore a component of all the previous personas Bowie has enacted over the years. The music also randomly dices and displays many of the previous album settings such personas have populated. To complete the cube, Bowie then draws on musicians that form a kind of anagram band from his past. The closest "Ziggy" link comes courtesy of pianist Mike Garson, whose icy, tinkling jazz runs evoke many a spine-tingly moment from Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs. Besides Garson and Eno, other names familiar to those who follow the Bowie canon include guitarists Carlos Alomar (Station to Station through Scary Monsters) and Reeves Grabels (Tin Machine), and '90s collaborators such as drummer Sterling Campbell (Black Tie White Noise) and multi-instrumentalist Erdal Kizilcay (Buddha). Diamond Dogs, inspired by George Orwell's 1984, is another obvious precursor to Outside's dissection of a post-apocalyptic, technological society in the name of Art. Bowie inflicts "in-character" spoken word segments as between-song segues, several of which evoke the Cockney campiness of such '60s period pieces as "Please Mr. Gravedigger" and "The Laughing Gnome" -- humor (intentional or not) that softens an otherwise bleak landscape. So, should you actually care about this dense, dark, difficult story and its generally unsympathetic characters? The effort required to adequately "process" Outside pays off in a richly voyeuristic experience where Bowie once again reflects fringe culture onto the mainstream and forces us to consider that the differences are not so great.

tags: david bowie, 1 outside, 1. outside, 1995, flac,

David Bowie - Hours... (1999)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1999 Virgin Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Since David Bowie spent the '90s jumping from style to style, it comes as a shock that Hours, his final album of the decade, is a relatively straightforward affair. Not only that, but it feels unlike anything else in his catalog. Bowie's music has always been a product of artifice, intelligence, and synthesis. Hours is a relaxed, natural departure from this method. Arriving after two labored albums, the shift in tone is quite refreshing. "Thursday's Child," the album's engaging mid-tempo opener, is a good indication of what lays ahead. It feels like classic Bowie, yet recalls no specific era of his career. For the first time, Bowie has absorbed all the disparate strands of his music, from Hunky Dory through Earthling. That doesn't mean Hours is on par with his earlier masterworks; it never attempts to be that bold. What it does mean is that it's the first album where he has accepted his past and is willing to use it as a foundation for new music. That's the reason why Hours feels open, even organic -- he's no longer self-conscious, either about living up to his past or creating a new future. It's a welcome change, and it produces some fine music, particularly on the first half of the record, which is filled with such subdued, subtly winning songs as "Something in the Air," "Survive," and "Seven." Toward the end of the album, Bowie branches into harder material, which isn't quite as successful as the first half of the album, yet shares a similar sensibility. And that's what's appealing about Hours -- it may not be one of Bowie's classics, but it's the work of a masterful musician who has begun to enjoy his craft again and isn't afraid to let things develop naturally.

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Judas Priest - Firepower (2018)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2018 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
Judas Priest's 18th studio album, FIREPOWER began under inauspicious circumstances. First, guitarist Glenn Tipton, diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a decade ago, found it necessary to retire from the road; second, they lost out to Bon Jovi for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; and finally, former drummer Dave Holland passed on before this set's issue. But the sound of FIREPOWER remains unbowed. Its undiminished power and assaultive mayhem are somewhat tempered in its slower moments by slowly unfurling rage, loss, and menace. It was begun in 2016 by Rob Halford, Tipton, and new guitarist Richie Faulkner. They chose two veteran producers to bring it home: Tom Allom, who helmed every JP album between 1979's Unleashed in the East (Live in Japan) and 1988's Ram It Down, and Andy Sneap, master producer/engineer of modern metal. He began his career in 1994 and has worked with everyone from Accept and Exodus to Megadeth, Masterplan, and Testament. He is also a formidable guitarist who is replacing Tipton on the road.
FIREPOWER is meaner and leaner than Redeemer of Souls; the songwriting is more diverse and exceptionally tight. JP recorded all together from the studio floor; overdubs were added in post-production. It creates a kinetic energy and unified sense of purpose not heard consistently since Screaming for Vengeance. The opening title track thunders with double-timed drums, a classic dual-guitar riff, and Halford's scream. He may not be able to reach glass-shattering pitches at age 67, but his midrange wail and baritone growl remain among the mightiest forces in rock. His venomous attack righteously informs this anthemic call to arms. The grooving "Lightning Strike" is led by Scott Travis' kit swinging hard over an angular guitar vamp, which erupts two-thirds of the way through with wonderfully tasty dual leads and solos. While some might wish all 14 tracks were bonecrushers, that's not Judas Priest. The midtempo "Never the Heroes" kicks off with a moody synth line and reverbed kick drums and tom-toms. It breaks down into menacing drama as Halford unfurls a hostile paean for the dead foot-soldiers of wars created by politicians and profiteers.
The knotty chug in "Necromancer" recalls the Judas Priest of yore, while "Children of the Sun" offers a riff worthy of early Black Sabbath before reentering the band's boot-stomping sphere. The structure, drama, and production on the taut "Rising from Ruins" recalls "Blood Red Skies" from Ram It Down -- especially with Ian Hill's thrumming bassline and chant-along chorus. Slower tempos prevail on "Flame Thrower" and "Spectre," but heaviness is never sacrificed. The spiky, raucous "Lone Wolf" is another groover possessing all of Judas Priest's iconic swagger and stomp. "Sea of Red" offers the other side of "Never the Heroes." An homage to the war dead, soldiers and civilians alike, it commences as a power ballad and builds into a rousing metal hymn. Closing in on their 50th anniversary, Judas Priest still possess the musical rigor, showmanship, and force that make other bands bow down. FIREPOWER smokes.

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Various Artists - William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Music From The Motion Picture (1996)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop, Pop Rock
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© 1996 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Baz Luhrmann's garish, flamboyant adaptation of Romeo + Juliet was hyper-kinetic and colorful, boasting a heavy inspiration from the visual style of MTV, so it's only appropriate that the soundtrack was tailored for the alternative nation that MTV fostered. Combining modern rock acts like Garbage, Radiohead, the Cardigans, and the Butthole Surfers with contemporary soul like Des'ree and adult alternative like Gavin Friday, the album is slick, polished, catchy -- and surprisingly strong. Though the soul and pop is good, the alternative rock acts on the soundtrack fare the best, with Garbage and Radiohead both contributing excellent B-sides ("Number One Crush" and "Talk Show Host," respectively), with the Cardigans' sleek, sexy lounge-disco number "Lovefool" stealing the show.

tags: various artists, romeo and juliet the soundtrack, ost, music from the motion picture, 1996, flac, william shakespeares romeo + juliet,

Kylie Minogue - Impossible Princess (1997)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Pop
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© 1997 Deconstruction
AllMusic Review by Chris True
By 1997, much of the pop music landscape had changed. The music papers were declaring the "Techno Revolution" was on, Oasis and Manic Street Preachers were ruling the charts, and simple dance-pop seemed to be the domain of teenage girls. So what does the dance-pop diva of the '90s do? She recruits Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore, and Nicky Wire, starts writing unaided, and completely changes musical direction. Enter Kylie Minogue's Impossible Princess (the title was changed to Kylie Minogue after the death of Princess Diana). From the trippy cover art to the abundance of guitars and experimental vocal tracks, this was her "great leap forward." The move got her in the papers, but, unfortunately, critical acclaim was lacking (and so were sales). Critics called it a mistake, and the public was less than impressed. Which is sad, because this is a pretty damn good record. Unlike her early work, this album sounds stronger and has a more natural feel. Her songwriting abilities have come a long way, and Impossible Princess actually flows together as an album. Worth another look.

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Kylie Minogue - Light Years (2000) ☠

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Pop
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2000 Parlophone Records
AllMusic Review by Chris True
In 1998, Kylie Minogue was dropped by dance label DeConstruction, and some thought she had committed career suicide. Obviously the backlash of 1997's Impossible Princess taught the diminutive Aussie one important lesson. Sometimes you have to just go with what you know -- go back to basics. And that's just what Minogue has done with 2000's Light Years. Symbolically dropping her last name from the cover, she re-enters the territory that made her great. Granted, with the teen pop movement at its strongest, one could say she just has good timing, but this work is leaps and bounds better than her Stock-Aitken-Waterman work. Light Years is not just another Minogue dance-pop record, but a great collection of disco stylings and Europop kitsch. "Spinning Around" is a fun and string-laden declaration that she may have made a mistake back in 1997, and the Robbie Williams/Guy Chambers-penned "Your Disco Needs You" is probably one of the best dance songs of the '90s. Arguably one of the best disco records since the '70s, Light Years is Minogue comfortable with who she is and what she's good at.

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March 29, 2018

Kylie Minogue - Body Language (2003)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Pop, R&B
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© 2003 Parlophone Records
AllMusic Review by Chris True
If Light Years was the comeback, and Fever the confirmation, then Body Language can best be described as Kylie's "big step forward." Sure it's still simple dance-pop, but this time she (and a team of producers and writers -- including Kurtis Mantronik -- it must be said) has put together an album that works as a piece. It's stylish without being smarmy, retro without being ironic, and its energy never gets annoying. In other words: a near perfect pop record. Instead of opting for more of the light dance- and disco-pop of the last two releases, Kylie has sought to expand her horizons. Adding elements of electroclash, '80s synth pop, bouncy club beats -- even a dash of Eminem-style raps! -- she's found the formula that not only makes her vocal shortcomings irrelevant but gives her the edge on the rest of the divas on their newfound quest: maturity. While Madonna, Xtina, and Britney have attempted to achieve maturity through trashiness and not really all that shocking behavior (i.e., that MTV Awards kiss), Kylie maintained a low profile, retained a sense of class, and put together what may well be the best album of her career. Simply, Body Language is what happens when a dance-pop diva takes the high road and focuses on what's important instead of trying to shock herself into continued relevance.

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Kylie Minogue - Aphrodite (2010)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Pop
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© 2010 Parlophone Records
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra
By time of Kylie Minogue’s eleventh album, 2010's Aphrodite, she had been releasing records for over 20 years. Most artists who’ve stuck around for that long end up rehashing their past catalogs and/or growing stale, but Kylie manages to avoid these fates by constantly working with new collaborators, keeping up on musical trends without pandering to them, and most importantly, never taking herself too seriously. Sure, she’s serious about making great dance music, but she never confuses her status as a pop icon with a desire to send out a message in her music. Aphrodite rarely strays past sweet love songs or happy dance anthems; its deepest message is “everything is beautiful.” You have to credit the songwriters (big names like Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters and Calvin Harris, as well as behind-the-scenes people like Sebastian Ingrosso, and Pascal Gabriel) for tailoring the efforts to Kylie’s strengths. Also on board is exec producer Stuart Price, who puts it all together, giving the record a focused sound that was lacking on her previous record, X, which touched convincingly on a myriad of styles and influences, but which ended up sounding a little scattered. Here the main sound is the kind of glittery disco pop that really is her strong suit. The various producers keep their eyes on the dancefloor throughout, crafting shiny and sleek tracks that sound custom-built to blast out of huge speaker columns. Fortunately for non-club goers, they never pave over the interesting details that make records good for home or headphone listening.
The squiggly synths of the massively catchy “All the Lovers,” the sighing background vocals and spiraling harpsichord-esque synths on the ominous "Closer," and the heavenly extended breakdown on “Looking for an Angel” are the kind of hooks that reward repeated listens. While Kylie is fortunate that so many excellent writers and producers are willing to work with her, they are lucky to be working with Kylie too; she can put over a shimmering and funky track like “Can’t Beat the Feeling” with ease, stomp through a dancefloor-filling jam like “Put Your Hands Up” with power, or cruise through a breezy summertime jam like “Better Than Today” with all kinds of laid-back charm. Sure, she’ll never be mistaken for an octave-stretching diva or a vocal powerhouse, but her slightly nasal, girl-next-door vocals serve her needs perfectly. She soars through the songs with just the right blend of emotion and restraint, adding some sass when needed (as on the thumping title track or “Get Outta My Way”) or some quiet melancholy when the mood arises (“Illusion”). This ability to tailor her performance to the song is a rare quality in the pop world of the early 2010s. It may lead people to underestimate Kylie's artistry but really, Aphrodite is the work of someone who knows exactly what her skills are and who to hire to help showcase them to perfection. She and her team have crafted an album that’s both full of songs that could/should hit the upper reaches of the charts, and also a collection of songs that hang together as an album. One of her best, in fact.

tags: kylie minogue, aphrodite, 2010. flac,

March 28, 2018

Kylie Minogue - Enjoy Yourself (1989)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Pop
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© 1989 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by Chris True
Given that it's the same team that put together her first LP, it's no surprise that Enjoy Yourself sounds very similar to her debut. Which is fine if you take into consideration that at the time this formula was pure gold. Europe went mad for the diminutive Australian, and this simple dance-pop is catchy stuff. Stock-Aitken-Waterman knew what they had and they crafted songs that kept Kylie in the public eye. All in all, a good companion to her debut.

tags: kylie minogue, enjoy yourself, 1989, flac,

Mary J. Blige - My Life (1994) ☠

*First pressing. Contains 17 tracks. A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1994 Uptown/MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart
Perhaps the single finest moment in Sean "Puffy" Combs' musical career has been the production on this, Mary J. Blige's second proper album. The production is not exactly original, and there is evidence here of him borrowing wholesale from other songs. The melodic sources this time around, though, are so expertly incorporated into the music that they never seem to be intrusions, instead playing like inspired dialogues with soulsters from the past, connecting past legacies with a new one. This certainly isn't your parents' (or grandparents') soul. But it is some of the finest modern soul of the '90s, backing away to a certain extent from the hip-hop/soul consolidation that Blige introduced on her debut album. The hip-hop part of the combination takes a few steps into the background, allowing Blige's tortured soul to carry the album completely, and it does so with heartwrenching authority. My Life is, from beginning to end, a brilliant, wistful individual plea of desire. Blige took a huge leap in artistry by penning almost everything herself (the major exception being Norman Whitfield's "I'm Going Down") in collaboration with co-producers Combs and multi-instrumentalist Chucky Thompson, and everything seems to leap directly from her gut. Blige's strain is sleekly modern and urban, and the grit in it comes from being streetwise and thoroughly realistic about the travails of life. My Life, nevertheless, emanates from some deep, dark place where both sadness and happiness cohabitate and turn into one single, beautiful sorrow.

tags: mary j blige, my life, 1994, flac,

Mary J. Blige - Mary (1999) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1999 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Perhaps it was inevitable that Mary J. Blige would mature, toning down the raunchier elements of her persona that have been evident since her debut, while repositioning herself as a classicist soul singer. Even so, the sheer classiness of Mary, her fourth album, may come as a bit of a surprise. Blige made a conscious effort to create an album that recalled the classic dawning days of quiet storm yet worked as a unified, cohesive album. That meant that the more overt hip-hop elements have been subdued in favor of '70s soul. There's still grit in the music, but it's been glossed over with a polished production, and she now favors sophisticated songs, including material from such writers as Stevie Wonder, Bacharach/David, Lauryn Hill, and Elton John/Bernie Taupin. Some of these writers were collaborators and others contributed songs outright, but the amazing thing about the end result belongs to nobody else but Blige. It's different, to be sure, but still her -- and it's a rewarding, engaging way to mature. Blige's voice is richer and her skills have deepened, and her new songs, while not as streetwise, are worthy of her talents. Consequently, Mary is a thoroughly winning album.

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Mýa - Mýa (1998)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 1998 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Mya's eponymous debut is a smooth, sultry collection of well-crafted contemporary urban soul that is actually richer than the average urban record the late '90s. Part of its success lies with the teenage Mya, who has a voice that is at once innocent and knowing, and part of it lies with her excellent team of producers and songwriters. Executive producer A. Haqq Islam has assembled a stellar behind-the-scenes team -- featuring Babyface, Diane Warren, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott and members of Dru Hill -- which has written and produced a fine set of songs that manage to sound universal and strangely confessional. That's because many of the songs on the record are loosely about a teenager becoming a woman, which is a subject Mya can convincingly sell. There are a few weak moments, to be sure, but overall it's a thoroughly promising debut.

tags: mya, mya album, 1998, flac,

Mýa - Fear of Flying (Reissue) (2000)

*Reissue contains 18 tracks total and a slightly altered track listing. A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 2000 Interscope/University Music Entertainment
AllMusic Review by Jon Azpiri
With her follow-up to her commercially successful debut album, Mya has taken a small step towards shedding her squeaky-clean image and embracing a more mature sound. Many of the best moments on Fear of Flying come with the help of other artists such as Jadakiss of the Lox and Left-Eye from TLC. With producer Swizz Beatz behind the soundboard for her and rapper Jadakiss making his presence felt on "Best of Me," the single is the album's highlight. "Takin' Me Over" featuring Left-Eye shows that when pushed Mya can hold her weight among R&B heavyweights. Without the energy of collaborators in the mix, many of her solo tracks wander into predictability. The album relies too heavily on tepid ballads such as the title track and "Man of My Life." Yet songs like "Can't Believe," "For the First Time," and "Lie Detector" show an emotional depth that lacked in her debut. Mya's sophomore effort proves that she is a promising young talent, but still has yet to develop the chops necessary to rank among the best of R&B divas.

tags: mya, fear of flying, 2000, flac, reissue,

Good Charlotte - Good Charlotte (2000)

*First pressing. Contains 13 tracks. A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
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© 2000 Epic/Daylight 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 album, 2000, flac,

Cyndi Lauper - A Night To Remember (1989)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop, Pop Rock
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© 1989 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
On True Colors, Cyndi Lauper began to edge her way into adult contemporary territory, but it was on her third album, A Night to Remember, that she concentrated all of her attention on becoming a self-consciously "mature" singer/songwriter. A Night to Remember doesn't always work, but not because she's incapable of performing polished, well-crafted middle-of-the-road material -- "Time After Time" and "True Colors" prove that she could convincingly deliver ballads. Instead, the album bogs down because it assumes that labored arrangements and precisely detailed production are tantamount to musical sophistication. That said, there are some moments -- such as the seductive "I Drove All Night" -- that make a lasting impression, illustrating what Lauper was attempting to achieve with the record.

tags: cyndi lauper, a night to remember, 1989, flac,

March 26, 2018

Candlemass - Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Doom Metal
Style: Epic Doom
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© 1986 Black Dragon, Leviathan Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
During the mid-80's, the European heavy metal scene was dominated by countless thrash, death, and black metal bands playing at breakneck speeds and screaming in a high-pitched frenzy. So when Candlemass released their debut, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus in 1986, its songs (featuring slow, lumbering riffs straight out of the Black Sabbath handbook and vocals delivered in a baritone, operatic style) offered up a stylistic curve ball of shocking proportions. After disposing of its deceptively optimistic introductory acoustic guitar, opener "Solitude" develops into a complete monster, replete with lyrics of suicidal depression and churning with the most colossal, down-tuned guitar riff since Sabbath's "Iron Man." And that's just the beginning, as succeeding tracks "Demon's Gate," "Crystal Ball," and "Under the Oak" (later re-recorded in its definitive version for the band's fourth album Tales of Creation) trudge by with deliberate, immutable doom. Although the group's vision was startlingly well-conceived and unique for its time, bassist, songwriter and all-around group leader Leif Edling had yet to find all the right components. And despite offering the strongest, most consistent songwriting of the band's career, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus was let down by vocalist Johan Lanquist, whose performance failed to deliver with the power and command of his immediate successor Messiah Marcolin. A pillar of classic '80s metal nonetheless, this album will satisfy all doomsters.

tags: candlemass, epicus doomicus metallicus, 1986, flac,

Candlemass - Nightfall (1987)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Doom Metal
Style: Epic Doom
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© 1987-1988 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Swedish doom originators Candlemass gave birth to an instant classic with their debut, Epicus Doomicus Metalicus. But their 1987 follow-up Nightfall managed to break even more new ground by introducing the operatic bellowing of new vocalist Messiah Marcolin, whose religious lyrics found the perfect match in the slow, grinding power chords written by bassist Leif Edling. Perfect examples of this formula like "The Well of Souls," "Samarithan," and "Bewitched" would become live standards for years to come and are nicely held together by short instrumentals, including a rendition of Chopin's "Marche Funebre." And while the band can't resist thrashing out just a tad on parts of "At the Gallow's End" and "Dark Are the Veils of Death," this is still a cohesive work, and a must for Black Sabbath fans

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Candlemass - Ancient Dreams (1988)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Doom Metal
Style: Epic Doom
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© 1988 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Candlemass' third album, Ancient Dreams is not quite as immediate as its predecessor, but with repeated listens, its songs (mostly running in the seven-minute range) become just as compelling. Outstanding tracks like "Mirror Mirror," "Darkness in Paradise," "The Bells of Acheron," and "Bearer of Pain" combine sluggish, staccato riffs with surprisingly memorable choruses delivered by vocalist Messiah Marcolin with his trademark vibrato overload. The title track and "Incarnation of Evil" do seem to plod on a bit too long, but the more energetic "A Cry from the Crypt" picks up the pace with some typical late-'80s thrashing. The closing "Black Sabbath Medley" is interesting, but hardly surprising, making this an album for serious fans only.

tags: candlemass, ancient dreams, 1988, flac,

Candlemass - Tales of Creation (1989)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Doom Metal
Style: Epic Doom
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© 1989-1990 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Tales of Creation may not contain as many classics as some of Candlemass' previous efforts, but the band has never sounded better, and the exceptional production job fully highlights the operatic vocals of Messiah Marcolin without sacrificing any of the band's low-end guitar crunch. Unfortunately, the group wastes precious space on short spoken-word interludes, which, although they are meant to tie everything together, actually detract from the album's continuity. Another perplexing blunder is the inclusion of "Into the Unfathomable Tower," a very uncharacteristic, frenzied guitar workout which sounds more like a Yngwie Malmsteen outtake. Still, the band offers enough winners with the title track, "Dark Reflections," and "Tears" to keep things interesting, and the stunning "Under the Oak" is simply one of the best songs of the band's career. While definitely not a first choice for new fans, this album will certainly satisfy serious doomsters.

tags: candlemass, tales of creation, 1989, flac,