April 30, 2018

En Vogue - Born To Sing (1990)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 1990 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Jose F. Promis
The '80s produced countless "three girl and a drum machine"-type acts, but 1990 produced the trendsetting quartet En Vogue (courtesy of producers Thomas McElroy and Denzil Foster), who, with their individual vocal skills, sophisticated sense of fashion, sultry videos, and smart singles, went on to become one of the decade's most successful and influential acts. The album that started it all was Born to Sing, which scored two pop hits and two more R&B hits. First and foremost is "Hold On," a cool, shuffling, timeless hip-hop R&B track which peaked at number two on the pop charts and showcased the girls' effortless harmonies. "Lies," which alternated lead vocalists (and featured a rap courtesy of Debbie T.), managed to crack the Top 40 while proving that all members of the quartet were equally adept at handling lead vocals. The biting "You Don't Have to Worry" and the sensual "Don't Go" both scored high on the R&B charts without becoming pop hits. Other highlights include the funky new jill swing track "Strange" and their one-minute version of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" (which should have been a full-length recording). There are a couple of duds, including "Part of Me," "Just Can't Stay Away," and the CD bonus track, "Waitin' on You," but overall this album is a winner, and was just a preview of the massive success they would achieve with 1992's Funky Divas.

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En Vogue - Funky Divas (1992)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 1992 EastWest Records America
AllMusic Review by Jose F. Promis
The 1990s were a time when hip-hop infused with R&B became pop music, and at the forefront of this movement was En Vogue. Their most commercially and critically successful album, Funky Divas, stands as one of the best pop/R&B albums to emerge from that time, incorporating soul, hip-hop, pop, dance, and rock to create one of the era's most diverse, dazzling, and exciting pieces of work. The album, which is basically free of filler, scored no less than five hit singles, three of which became Top Ten pop hits. Additionally, several other album tracks became dance hits and received considerable airplay as well. These include the unstoppable "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)," which combined perfect harmonies, street sass, and 1990s female assertion to create one of the biggest hits of 1992, as well as a catch phrase which became ubiquitous in popular culture. Other hits include their sophisticated, shimmering Top Ten remake of "Giving Him Something He Can Feel," a ghetto love fable initially popularized by Aretha Franklin, the doo wop good-feelin' "Give It Up Turn It Loose," the jazzy "Love Don't Love You," and the hard rock smash "Free Your Mind." The last was a hit which, following the summer of the Los Angeles riots, struck a chord with national audiences by coaxing people to let down their guards about racism and prejudice. Other highlights include the great opener "This Is Your Life," the hip-hop tracks "Hip Hop Lover" and "It Ain't Over Till the Fat Lady Sings," the house track "What Is Love," the sexy, Middle Eastern-influenced "Desire," and their wonderful, should-have-been-a-hit version of Curtis Mayfield's "Hooked on Your Love." Combining sass, elegance, and class with amazing vocals and perfect production, this delightful set stands as one of the 1990s definitive pop albums.

tags: en vogue, funky divas, 1992, flac,

En Vogue - EV3 (1997)⚓

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 1997 EastWest Records America
AllMusic Review by Leo Stanley
The sound of En Vogue isn't greatly affected by the departure of Dawn Robinson for their third album, EV3, since the group's harmonies remain remarkably supple and soulful. Instead, the group are hurt by its selection of producers and songwriters. En Vogue have decided to work with Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy only occasionally on EV3, choosing to hire such professional songwriters and producers as Babyface, David Foster, Diane Warren and Ivan Matias, who arranged their hit single "Don't Let Go (Love)." At times, these pairings work: Babyface's "Whatever" is funkier than his previous work, and Matias brings a gospel-drenched sensibility to his songs. In the cases of Warren and Foster, they reshape En Vogue as an adult contemporary band, sapping the group of any of their energy or style. Still, there are enough strong moments scattered throughout the album to make it worth the wait.

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Michel'le - Hung Jury (1998) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1998 Death Row Records
AllMusic Review by Jose F. Promis
It took Michel'le nearly a decade to release a follow-up to her hit-laden self-titled debut, and the results on Hung Jury are pleasant, but never really equal her previous heights. To begin with, nothing on this album is as immediate or memorable as "No More Lies" or "Something In My Heart." The title track is catchy, but is weighted down by banal lyrics like "I like to freak seven days a week." "Crazy" comes off as a somewhat tepid update of her hit "Nicety," and some of the other tracks, such as "Wasted My Tyme" and the fun "Tonight Is," sound as though they came straight from 1989. Some songs do manage to hold their own, such as "Can I Get a Witness," the aforementioned "Tonight Is," and "Here 4 U" (the album's best track), but some fall downright flat, such as "No Where 2 Run." Although this album is not without merit, it seems as though Michel'le ran out of steam somewhere between 1990 and 1998.

tags: michelle, michel'le, hung jury, 1998, flac,

April 29, 2018

Vixen - Tangerine (1998)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Grunge
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© 1998 CMC International
AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny
Eight long years after Rev It Up, Vixen return with a recording of all new material dubbed Tangerine. In the interim, the group's pop-metal sound has changed only imperceptibly, so if you liked Vixen before, Tangerine will be right up your alley; if you didn't, this new record will do nothing to change your mind.

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Europe - Start From The Dark (2004)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 2004 Friday Music
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
They're baaack! Nearly a decade-and-a-half has passed since we last heard from one of hair metal's leading bands, Europe, and the group has returned with Start from the Dark. While the group has earned a bit of a bad rap over the years (their keyboard-heavy tale of Armageddon, "The Final Countdown," was voted one of the 'Most Awesomely Bad Songs of All Time' on VH1), there's no denying that under all the pretty boy good looks and pop hooks, Europe was a talented band -- especially when compared to the other similar acts of the era. Europe's latest sees the group toughen up their sound a bit (especially when compared to their aforementioned Final Countdown era), as guitarist John Norum's heavy riffs serve as the main focal point, not keyboards, especially on such tracks as "Got to Have Faith" and the title track. In fact, even when the band takes the volume down a notch, as on "Reason," they wisely no longer try to heighten the 'syrup factor' with keyboards. Fans longing for Europe's return should enjoy Start From the Dark, even if their sound may be a bit heavier nowadays.

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Europe - Secret Society (2006)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 2006 T&T Sanctuary Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
When you think of '80s pop/prog-rockers Europe, arena-worthy singalongs (à la "The Final Countdown"), and tear-inducing power ballads (à la "Carrie") immediately come to mind. But with the group's 2006 effort, Secret Society (their second since reuniting in the early 21st century), Europe has endured a total musical makeover. In place of their once glossy pop production is a much more heavy sound, while the once overtly melodic vocals of Joey Tempest have toughened up considerably, and guitarist John Norum's once shredding leads have been considerably scaled back. Led Zeppelin is obviously a major influence on the album-opening title track, while cuts such as "Love Is Not the Enemy" and "Let the Children Play" feature some unmistakably nu-metal riffs. And Europe certainly receive credit for producing and writing the album entirely on their own -- as they're one of the few '80s-era rock veterans who did not have to ask for assistance from outside help to reinvent and update their sound. As evidenced by Secret Society, Europe have succeeded in creating an album that faithfully reflects the sound of rock radio circa 2006.

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Europe - Last Look At Eden (2009)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 2009 Ear Music
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
You can always count on good ol' Europe to supply grandiose and bombastic rock of the highest order (did any song score higher on the "arena rock-o-meter" than "The Final Countdown" back in the '80s?). After reuniting for good in the early 21st century, the group -- which is still led by one-time "golden god" vocalist Joey Tempest -- has been issuing albums on a regular basis, and 2009 saw their third disc since reuniting, Last Look at Eden. The "anticipation" builds with a string-heavy "Prelude" before leading into the epic Zeppelin-meets-symphony rock of the title track. Elsewhere, you'll find songs that sound like they could have been plucked off of a modern-day Whitesnake album ("Gonna Get Ready"), the obligatory sappy power ballad ("New Love in Town"), and Zeppelin-like grooves that would make Kingdom Come green with envy ("Mojito Girl," "Only Young Twice," "U Devil U," etc.). Last Look at Eden sounds exactly as you would picture a Europe album to be in 2009 -- for better of for worse.

tags: europe, last look at eden, 2009, flac,

April 26, 2018

Cyndi Lauper - True Colors (1986)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop Rock, Pop
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© 1986 Portrait
AllMusic Review by Eugene Chadbourne
There were a few years in the mid-'80s when one couldn't go out for a cup of coffee without encountering Cyndi Lauper in one form or another. Her videos were playing constantly on MTV, her music was everywhere on the radio, and, best of all, children were even dressing up as Cyndi for Halloween. In retrospect, it was a Lauper-ish time but it was all over quite quickly; in fact, the period in the ultra-limelight didn't even span the period covered by two album releases, which means that this follow-up to her smash debut album was relegated to the also-ran pile, with sad results such as only one sort-of hit single (the title track) and nobody apparently interested in imitating the skirt she wore on the back cover photo, which seems like it is made of slashed-up concert posters. Kind of a shame since so much love and attention went into this album. Guest stars and high-dollar session musicians abound, including other '80s icons such as the Bangles and the manic Pee Wee Herman, who provides a great little answering-machine bit at the end of "911." Lauper is a fantastic vocalist, meaning that any record producer worth hiring would be happy to dream up endless settings for her. This album is nothing if not ambitious, and some of the stretches really pay off, such as the ultimately endearing cover of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On." Other aspects date badly. For example, highly reverberated and artificial sounding drums and keyboards were really popular at the time, but a vocalist with a clear voice such as Lauper sounds much better in the context of real instruments with their warmer sounds. When it comes to tunes such as the nice Cajun number "The Faraway Nearby," drums should have been turned way down and other instrumental colors brought up. Despite these sorts of problems, there really wasn't that much music recorded by this artist during her most popular period, so fans will no doubt want to own it all.

tags: cyndi lauper, true colors, 1986, flac,

Cyndi Lauper - Sisters of Avalon (1996)

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

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop Rock, Pop
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© 1996-1997 Epic, Sony Music Entertainment, Inc.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Cyndi Lauper made a valiant effort to jump start her career with the varied and eclectic Sisters of Avalon. Working with producer Mark Saunders, Lauper attempts to work worldbeat, adult alternative, and even trip-hop influences into her trademark adult contemporary pop, and while the results aren't always successful, the record is the most intriguing and rewarding album she made since True Colors.

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Zebrahead - Waste of Mind (1998)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Punk Rock
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© 1998 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Jason D. Taylor
Zebrahead's mixture of happy-go-lucky hip-hop drenched with rambunctious pop/rock is quite a formidable adversary, as listening to Waste of Mind it is nearly impossible not to enjoy the songs, even if you find yourself in the darkest of moods. These five young men have seemingly created their own distinct sound amidst hundreds of bland rap/rock knock-offs, and find that their greatest weapon of all is the ability to convey positive thoughts through their music. Waste of Mind never once steers towards the depressing tones that have catapulted many rock bands to stardom during the '90s; instead, every chord emitted from the album savagely strikes for the hidden child inside all of us. One of the most memorable aspects of Waste of Mind are its delightfully catchy melodies. Songs like "The Real Me," "Someday," and "Bootylicious Vinyl" excel at entertaining the listener, feeding off from casual pop references while continuously rocking throughout. Zebrahead do lack much substance, as most of the songs contained within this 14 track release are borderline silly, and lyrically the group aim more for goofiness than trying to cover serious issues. Zebrahead capture the essence of rock entertainment, and if you're looking for an album that focuses on putting a smile on the listener's face, Waste of Mind should be a consideration

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Zebrahead - Playmate of The Year (2000)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Punk
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© 2000 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Having failed to score commercially with their debut album Waste of Mind, Zebrahead returns two years later with more of the same, which is to say fast-paced hard rock on which Justin Mauriello's male adolescent musings are augmented by Ali Tabatabaee's aggressive raps. At their best, on the title song (sort of a musical version of a Farrelly Brothers movie in under three minutes), the group approaches the sound of Cheap Trick, with their shimmering guitar lines, furious rhythm playing, and Mauriello's self-deprecating, humorous lyrics. A few other songs, notably "The Hell That Is My Life" and "Wasted," are almost as effective, but much of Zebrahead's music is too busy for its own good, and when they attempt social commentary on "What's Goin' On?" (where have we seen that title before?) the results are embarrassing, while as a change of pace like "Livin' Libido Loco" is more reminiscent of Barry Manilow than Ricky Martin. The hidden track at the end of the album is a prank call made by Mauriello to Sony Music in which he impersonates his mother and demands to know when he is going to start seeing some money from his record contract. It may indicate the band will pack it in unless Playmate of the Year breaks through, but even with a tie-in to Playboy magazine that still seems like a long shot.

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Zebrahead - MFZB (2003)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Punk
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© 2003 Columbia Records
Reviewed by Stewart Dowouis for Punk News.org
I can see it now. Review after review will inevitably dismiss the new Zebrahead album (yes, I still call 'em albums), MFZB, as another piece of emotionless garbage by yet another group of trend-hopping, cash hungry, fauxhawk/trucker's mesh hats wearing wannabees. The unfortunate thing about that, however, is that this band is truly amazing. Those who are quick to throw this one in the trash bin are definately depriving themselves of something really special.
Yeah, I know the scene is beginning to overexpose and homogenize a once vibrant and exciting genre of rock music, namely emocore/post-hardcore/pop punk, with countless clone bands like Story Of The Year and Hidden In Plain View and The Starting Line, but if we can for a minute, let's suspend those preconceived notions and take a look at this record.
Those of you who experienced the same sense of musical disarray that I did in the late '90s may remember zebrahead as the band with the cliche' hip hop styled verses, but incredibly bright and ridiculously insane catchy choruses. During a time when bands like the Goo Goo Dolls, Lit, Blink 182, Limp Bizkit and Korn all melded together into one giant, bland, pop musical experience (not taking anything away from those bands individually), Zebrahead showed signs of genius. Yes, they lacked a certain degree of individuality at that time, but they more than made up for it with their dynamic sense of harmony, musicianship and songwriting skills. These guys command their individual instruments and compose some of the most awe inspiring melodies in rock today.
Four years since their last full length release, they return with MFZB, 15 tracks of growth and creative maturity unmatched by most current 'major label' bands. By toning down the "hip hop" thing a bit without completely selling that aspect of their sound out, they've fashioned together 15 songs that come across with the same speed and intensity of the most pop "punk" punk bands out there these days AND the crisp choruses of classic bands like Boston and Def Leppard. Those of you who write music know just how difficult a combo like this can be to pull off successfully. Not only did Zebrahead do it here on this record, but they pulled it off in mindblowing fashion. It's hard to hold what they lack slightly in the originality department against a group that's just so damn talented.
Songs like 'Type A' would give NOFX a run for their money. The chorus to 'Into You' would leave Christopher Cross scratching his head in disbelief. LL Cool J would be jealous of their "flow."
This record also pulls off politically themed songs without alienating listeners who may not be all that concerned with the current mess created by the Bush administration. There are plenty of tracks on MFZB that deal with heartbreak and self reflection like 'The Set-Up' to match the politically charged (yet mild in content) messages of others like 'Rescue Me' and 'Strength,' a song that I personally think should be the liberal anthem of '04. Simply put, there is a little something here for all of us. It is the perfect capsulation of this moment in rock music history. Unless you're a maniacal punk purist (unfortunately, most of you probably are) I'd suggest that you give it a shot. I promise you that you will not be disappointed. Don't be afraid of the whole hip hop thing. This time around the rap parts are much more rock than "gangsta"; much more Rage Against The Machine/Red Hot Chili Peppers than Limp Bizkit/Linkin Park. I think they've finally found their sound by melding all of these different influences together in one smoothly flowing package. Nothing on this album sounds forced. Every single moment of it sounds energetic and sincere. It's scary to imagine how much better these guys will get with each passing album.

tags: zebrahead, zebra head, mfzb, 2003, flac,

Mary J. Blige - Share My World (1997)⚓

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 1997 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
The hype that surrounded Mary J. Blige in the beginning was simply ridiculous. When What's the 411? was released in 1992, she was exalted as "the new Chaka Khan"-- a definite exaggeration, considering how uneven that debut album was. But Blige did show promise, and by the time she recorded her third album, Share My World, she had developed into a fairly convincing soul/urban singer. Her strongest and most confident effort up to that point, Share had much more character, personality, and honesty than most of the assembly line fare dominating urban radio in 1997. For all their slickness, emotive cuts like "Get to Know You Better," "Love Is All We Need," and "Keep Your Head" left no doubt that Blige was indeed a singer of depth and substance. Although high tech, the production of everyone from R. Kelly (with whom she duets on the inviting "It's On") and Babyface to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis doesn't come across as forced or robotic, but, in fact, is impressively organic. With Share My World, Blige definitely arrived.

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April 25, 2018

Ultravox - Ultravox! (1977)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave
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© 1977-1992 Island Masters, Island Records
AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson
Depeche Mode claimed to be punks with synthesizers, but it was Ultravox! who first showed the kind of dangerous rhythms that keyboards could create. The quintet certainly had their antecedents -- Hawkwind, Roxy Music, and Kraftwerk to name but a few, but still it was the group's 1977 eponymous debut's grandeur (courtesy of producer Eno), wrapped in the ravaged moods and lyrical themes of collapse and decay that transported '70s rock from the bloated pastures of the past to the futuristic dystopias predicted by punk. Epic tales of alienation, disillusion, and disintegration reflected the contemporary holocaust of Britain's collapse, while accurately prophesying the dance through society's cemetery and the graveyards of empires that were to be the Thatcher/Reagan years. "Satday Night in the City of the Dead," "Wide Boys," "The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned," "Dangerous Rhythm," and "Slip Away" all simultaneously bemoaned and celebrated the destruction of Western culture while swaggering boldly through the wreckage; "I Want to Be a Machine" and "My Sex" warned of and yearned for technology's triumph. And it was these apposites and didactic emotions that so pierced the zeitgeist of the day, and kicked open a whole new world of synthesized music. Dangerous rhythms indeed.

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Ultravox - Ha!-Ha!-Ha! (1977)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave
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© 1977-1992 Island Records
AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson
Ha! Ha! Ha! is a bruising album, a tsunami of a set that epitomized the fire and fury of its age. Icy to its core, producer Steve Lillywhite brilliantly captured both the band's urgency and the brittleness of their sound. Like the implosion of gases that ignited the Big Bang, Ha!-Ha!-Ha! hangs in the millisecond before the ensuing explosion, trembling with ferocious tension and fierce anticipation of the coming storm. Much of the set seems frozen in this moment in time and space, lyrically reflected in "Hiroshima Mon Amour," "Man Who Dies Every Day," and "Frozen Ones." Unlike the celebration of destruction that defined their debut set, Ultravox! now stood staring aghast into the abyss, with the manic exuberance of "Rockwrock" emerging not as the exhilarating dance through the death of civilization that many listeners assumed, but the band's panicked response to its collapse. And as fear took hold in the Western world, the band battered themselves against its crumbling walls, ravaged by the artificiality of the society rising amongst its ruins. Even decades on, the sheer ferocity of this set continues to impress.

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Ultravox - Systems of Romance (1978)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave
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© 1978-1992 Island Records
AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson
With 1978's Systems of Romance, Ultravox left punk behind and single-handedly blueprinted the entire new romantic movement to come -- well, with a little help from co-producers Conny Planck and Dave Hutchins. Gone was the brittleness of Ha!-Ha!-Ha!, replaced by a rich lushness of sound that would define the forthcoming genre. Shifting from the political to the interpersonal, gone too was the overwhelming sense of looming Armageddon, replaced by more generalized (and mundane) feelings of alienation, "Dislocation," and unease. "Quiet Men" is a Lowry painting brought to life, the chorus of "Slow Motion" a swaying field painted by Renoir, "I Can't Stay Long" a Degas ballet, while "Maximum Acceleration" is as lavish in sound as Botticelli was with paint. The rhythms still remained dangerous, however, and Robin Simon's guitar gives the set a tough edge, but it's the swirling, swooping synths and keyboards that predominate within.

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Ultravox - Brilliant (2012)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop, Pop Rock
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© 2012 Chrysalis Records
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien
28 years have passed since the most successful incarnation of Ultravox (vocalist Midge Ure, bassist Chris Cross, keyboardist Billy Currie, and drummer Warren Cann) have recorded together, but their first studio album since 1984's Lament shows that nothing much has changed. Co-produced with Stephen Lipson (Annie Lennox), the rather confidently titled Brilliant offers little to explain what took them so long. Every single one of its 12 tracks, from the chest-thumping pomp rock of opener "Live" to the dreary soul balladry of closer "Contact," feels like they've been dug up from the Vienna era rather than the byproduct of a new, creative second wind. The album begins, intriguingly enough, with "Flow" throwing everything from shimmering shoegazey riffs to bagpipes into the stadium rock mix, while the title track's rubbery, synth basslines, glacial piano chords, and Gregorian chants help create an engaging slice of slightly sinister synth pop. But after such a lengthy absence, it's disappointing to find that Brilliant runs out of steam so soon, with a string of plodding, proggy ballads ("Remembering," "Hello," "One") which are far more West End than New Wave. Of course, there's always been a sense of the theatrical about Ultravox, but here it's so po-faced and over-earnest that it's difficult to sit through. It's by no means an embarrassment of a comeback, but an embarrassment would arguably have been more fun than most of Brilliant's self-indulgent, monotonous fare.

tags: ultravox, brilliant, 2012, flac,

April 24, 2018

Tank - Power of The Hunter (1982)

*Original first pressing on C.D.
Originally released in 1982 on Vinyl.

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1982-1991 Repertoire Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Although they had spent much of the previous year supporting a famously devastating debut, Filth Hounds of Hades, while touring in tandem with some of Britain's heaviest bands (Girlschool, Diamond Head and their inspirational rabbis Mot├Ârhead), Tank inexplicably delivered an astonishingly restrained and civilized sounding sophomore effort in Power of the Hunter, their second album of 1982. To be fair, the until-recently sharp-fanged power trio almost recalled their recklessly irrepressible former selves on the hard-hitting title track, the refreshingly frantic "Red Skull Rock," and the instrumental "T.A.N.K."; but it was really rather telling that so much of the their suddenly scarce allowances of high-speed adrenalin were squandered on an instrumental, with two songs shoved all the way to the back of the album. Meanwhile, repetitive opener "Walking Backwards over Glass" (whatever the hell that means) seriously overstayed its welcome, a cover of the Osmonds' "Crazy Horses" was curious to say the least, the ridiculously named, bass guitar heavy "Set Your Back on Fire" sounded like second-rate Kiss with a leering Gene Simmons at the helm, and the misleadingly named "Pure Hatred" was only salvaged by a stellar guitar solo from Pete Brabbs doing his best Ritchie Blackmore imitation. And it's not even that the members of Tank were suddenly rediscovering their late-'70s punk roots because, if tedious dross like "Biting and Scratching," "Some Came Running," or the seemingly chart-minded (but still dumb-as-nails) "Used Leather" were any indication, they actually seemed to have regressed even further back to some sort of mid-'70s pub rock! In any event, and in the end, Power of the Hunter's uneven sum total didn't quite qualify as an all out disaster -- there have been far more egregious sell-out operations in the long history of heavy metal -- but the band's sonic emasculation process was nevertheless drastic enough that Power of the Hunter sold half as many copies as their furious debut. Tank would manage to recover from their unfortunate sophomore slump with an unqualified return to heavy metal on 1983's This Means War, but not before being jolted to attention by Power of the Hunter's commercial failure, their record company's bankruptcy, and the loss of the both Pete and Mark Brabbs brothers in the painful process.

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10,000 Maniacs - The Wishing Chair (1987) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Folk Rock, Rock
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© 1985 Elektra Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
While Natalie Merchant's elastic vocal cords are the obvious centerpiece of 10,000 Maniacs' lilting folk-pop, what becomes apparent early on in The Wishing Chair is that the band would likely dry up and drift away like a dandelion if it weren't for the inventive, wiry guitar playing of Robert Buck. It's Buck's instrument that acts as a constant (tin) foil for the spicy mustard goodness of Merchant's vocal cords, whether he's laying down the Johnny Marr-style spider riffs of "Grey Victory" and "Scorpio Rising," or inspiring a thousand private college-based cover bands with "Maddox Table"'s chorus pedal dynamics. While The Wishing Chair ends up being a little too long, it is nevertheless a sparkling major-label debut, and even bares its incisors a bit alongside more pastoral fare like "Cotton Alley." The shining "My Mother the War" bounces along on a tensile, new wave-inspired groove that even includes what can only be described as a mirthful whoop from the normally opaque Merchant. The majority of The Wishing Chair underpins the sound that came to define the Maniacs and Merchant's later solo flight. But when its hackles are raised, it's like finding out that the teacher's pet smokes cigarettes behind the school bus.

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10,000 Maniacs - In My Tribe (1987)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Folk Rock, Rock
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© 1987 Elektra Records
AllMusic Review by Chris Woodstra
10,000 Maniacs's breakthrough album and creative high point, In My Tribe offers a survey of social concerns, including child abuse ("What's the Matter Here"), illiteracy ("Cherry Tree"), war ("Gun Shy"), and the environment ("Campfire Song") -- all tackled subtly and tastefully without too much preaching or pretension and in believable, real-life situations. Producer Peter Asher, whose credits include James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, provides the perfect sheen -- the group's pleasant folk-pop lends itself nicely to the '70s-styled singer/songwriter production. In the end, the album proves powerful not for the ideas (they've been covered before) but rather for the graceful execution and pure listenability. In My Tribe has served as one of the soundtracks for P.C. living and was required listening on college campuses in the late '80s.

tags: 10000 maniacs, 10,000, in my tribe, 1987, flac,

10,000 Maniacs - Blind Man's Zoo (1989) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Rock
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© 1989 Elektra Records
AllMusic Review by Chris Woodstra
After the success of In My Tribe, it would be expected that hordes of bands would take a stab at the market with their own second-rate versions of the album -- it's disappointing that 10,000 Maniacs would be one of them, churning out not only In My Tribe, Pt. 2, but an inferior copy at that. It's not that the album is bad -- certainly they've perfected their sound, and in many cases, the songs are catchier this time out -- but in handling the issues (there's no shortage of them), Natalie Merchant has become more direct and obvious. For all of its earnestness and good-intentioned teachings, Blind Man's Zoo ultimately fails in its heavy-handed and generally uninteresting approach.

tags: 10000 maniacs, 10,000, blind mans zoo, man's, 1989, flac,