June 28, 2018

D'Angelo - Brown Sugar (1995)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 1995 EMI Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
By the mid-'90s, most urban R&B had become rather predictable, working on similar combinations of soul and hip-hop, or relying on vocal theatrics on slow, seductive numbers. With his debut album, Brown Sugar, the 21-year-old D'Angelo crashed down some of those barriers. D'Angelo concentrates on classic versions of soul and R&B, but unlike most of his contemporaries, he doesn't cut and paste older songs with hip-hop beats; instead, he attacks the forms with a hip-hop attitude, breathing new life into traditional forms. Not all of his music works -- there are several songs that sound incomplete, relying more on sound than structure. But when he does have a good song -- like the hit "Brown Sugar," Smokey Robinson's "Cruisin'," or the bluesy "Shit, Damn, Motherfucker," among several others -- D'Angelo's wild talents are evident. Brown Sugar might not be consistently brilliant, but it is one of the most exciting debuts of 1995, giving a good sense of how deep D'Angelo's talents run.

tags: d'angelo, d angelo, brown sugar, 1995, flac,

Yazoo - Upstairs At Eric's (1982)

*U.K. second pressing. Contains 12 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1982-1986 Mute
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
Vince Clarke can claim involvement in two stunning debuts in only two years: Depeche Mode's Speak and Spell and Yaz's Upstairs at Eric's. While Speak and Spell is, by far, the more consistent record, Upstairs at Eric's is wholly more satisfying, beating the Depeche record on substance and ambition, and is light years ahead in emotion. "Don't Go" and "Situation" are absolutely killer with Clarke's bubbling synth and singer Alison Moyet's bluesy and powerful delivery. They're both rightful dance floor staples, and have since undergone numerous remixes, both official and bootleg. "Bring Your Love Down (Didn't I)" is just as good a thumper, adding a wonderful mumbled bridge that shows how much Clarke enjoyed messing with pop music. The softer "Only You" would have sounded silly and robotic if it had appeared on Speak and Spell, but Moyet's vocals makes it bittersweet and engaging. The clumsier experimental tracks make most people head for the hits collection, but to do so would be to miss the album's great twist. The loony tape loop of "I Before E Except After C," the skeletal "Winter Kills," and a disruptive phone call in the middle of the naïve "Bad Connection" offer up more complex and intimate moments. Like its curious cover, Upstairs at Eric's presents a fractured, well-lit, and paranoid urban landscape.

tags: yazoo, yaz, upstairs at erics, 1982, flac,

Yazoo - You & Me Both (1983)

*European pressing. Contains the track "State Farm" instead of "Happy People" Contains 11 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1983-1986 Mute
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Perhaps a more consistent collection overall than the first album, this one demonstrates that the duo was anything but played out. While both have gone on to successful careers, you can't help regretting that this was the end of Yaz.

tags: yazoo, yaz, you and me both, 1983, flac,

June 26, 2018

Bounty Killer - No Argument (1995)

Country: Jamaica
Genre: Dancehall, Reggae
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© 1995 Greensleeves Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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Bounty Killer - Next Millenium (1998)

Country: Jamaica
Genre: Dancehall, Ragga
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© 1998 TVT Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
In the '90s, Bounty Killer was a prime example of someone who illustrated reggae's generation gap. Many 35-and-over Jamaicans expressed their disdain for his controversial gun talk and wondered why their kids didn't embrace "real" reggae like Desmond Dekker or Jimmy Cliff (just as many African-American baby boomers didn't understand why their kids would choose Ice Cube and Snoop Doggy Dogg over Smokey Robinson). But among younger Jamaicans (as well as post-baby boomers in the U.S. and Europe), he became an icon. Not as consistently hardcore as some of Bounty's previous releases, Next Millennium finds him liberally incorporating urban contemporary elements while continuing to bring a passion for hip-hop to his dancehall reggae foundation. Slick, urban contemporary-flavored tunes like "Reggae Party" (which features Third World and Shaggy), "It's a Party" and "A Love That's Real" are fairly commercial by Bounty's standards, but grittier, more hardcore offerings such as "Scare Dem Way," "Can't Believe Mi Eyes" and "Deadly Zone" (which features Queens rappers Mobb Deep) should dispel any notions that Bounty was trying to become a pop star. A varied and decent CD, Next Millennium allows Bounty to branch out without forgetting his dancehall roots. [The CD was also released with a bonus track.]

tags: bounty killer, next millennium, 1998, flac,

Kingdom Come - Independent (2002)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 2002 Ulftone Music
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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Pentagram - Relentless (2005 Reissue)⚓

*Second reissue by Peaceville Records. Originally reissued in 1993 on CD with the title "Relentless", a new cover and a different track listing. Original 1984 pressings were released with the title, "Pentagram" on Vinyl. Both pressings contain 11 tracks total. A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Doom Metal
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© 1984-2005 Peaceville
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Relentless is a well-chosen name for Pentagram's belated first album, as it was only through relentless determination that vocalist Bobby Liebling -- a fixture of D.C.'s club scene since the early '70s -- managed to persist long enough to see its 1985 release. And though it is hampered by the usual sonic limitations you'd expect from an independent recording, from a musical standpoint, the album more than lives up to pent-up expectations. A raw, untainted slab of pure doom metal, Relentless is a time tunnel straight to heavy metal's very inception at the hands of Black Sabbath -- largely thanks to its lo-fi recording, ironically. Guitarist Victor Griffin is an obvious disciple of Tony Iommi's fretwork, and the eerie similarity between Liebling's and Ozzy's vocal styles simply must to be heard to be believed. Together, they lead the band through grim anthems of depression and social ostracism, including the excellent "Dying World," "Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram)," "You're Lost, I'm Free," and "Sinister" (whose leaden backbeat is punctuated by what sounds like iron stakes being driven through a vampire's heart). Hardly a masterpiece, but well worth the wait, Relentless instantly confirmed Pentagram's position alongside Saint Vitus and Trouble in the American doom metal elite.

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Kix - Cool Kids (1983)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Glam Metal, Hard Rock
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© 1983-1986 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Donald A. Guarisco
This 1983 album pushes Kix in a more new wave direction than their hard-rocking debut outing. On this surface, Cool Kids might seem like a commercialized cash grab: it contains a handful of tracks penned by hired guns like Nick Gilder and Holly Knight and also adds a layer of new wave-styled synthesizer shadings to Kix's pop-metal sound. However, this impression is soon revealed to be wrong as soon as the album is spun because the outside song contributions fit neatly in with the group's own songs and the sonic embellishments enhance the group's sound instead of watering it down. The standouts among the outside contributions are the title track, which blends new wave verses driven by staccato guitar lines with a hard-rocking, shoutalong chorus, and "Body Talk," a danceable fusion of hard rock firepower and a synthesizer-layered new wave beat. The group's songs live up to the standard set by these carefully constructed tunes by presenting an equal amount of hooks and inspiration: "Mighty Mouth" is like a bubblegum song played at hard rock speed and "Get Your Monkeys Out" blends glam rock drum beats with jungle noises and a singalong chorus. However, its finest achievement is "For Shame," an soulful, acoustic power ballad with lovely harmonies that predates all the hair metal ballads that would become popular during the mid-'80s. Pete Solley's slick production manages to bring all this strong material to life by effectively balancing the group's guitar-fuelled power with an array of arrangement frills (voice-box guitars, drum machines) that draw attention to the strong pop hooks in each song. The end result is an underrated gem that is begging to be rediscovered by fans of pop-metal.

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Kix - Blow My Fuse (1988) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Glam Metal, Hard Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1988 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by John Franck
By 1988, Kix had only managed to squeeze out three modest-selling records for Atlantic Records. Led in tandem by the endearing frontman Steve Whiteman and chief songwriter and bassist Donnie Purnell, for years, Kix would be unfairly categorized as a supposed "hair band." Worse still, Whiteman would later wake up to find his dancing-on-my-tippy-toes stage act (just think Steven Tyler meets Johnny Thunders on uppers) stolen and carbon copied for the masses by a host of other inferior frontmen including Poison's Brett Michaels. After playing the East Coast club circuit for ten-plus years (with little commercial success to show for it), Kix's own brand of infectious AC/DC power rock-meets-New York, black-hair-dye-glam would finally see its big payoff with the release of 1988's, Blow My Fuse. Produced by hard rock stalwart Tom Werman, Blow My Fuse may have proved to be the band's biggest-selling record but not necessarily its best. Featuring ten solid songs, including the first single/video for the very AC/DC-sounding "Cold Blood," the infectious "She Dropped Me the Bomb," and the excellent title track "Blow My Fuse," the album's big boon would manifest itself in the form of a monster-power ballad, "Don't Close Your Eyes." The track ultimately proved to be Kix's coming-out party and their graduation into the big leagues. Sadly, it would prove to be the band's sole bona fide career hit even though "Cold Blood" made a few tremors here and there. Almost overnight, the band was now travelling on luxury tour busses and effortlessly holding its own as an opening act in arenas across the United States. Embraced with open arms by MTV, "Don't Close Your Eyes" finally allowed Kix to open for the likes of David Lee Roth, heroes AC/DC, and Aerosmith, as well as other soon to be forgotten acts like Ratt and the horrific Britny Fox. After years of hardship, the band could breathe easy (if only for a brief 18 months or so). Just two years later, like many of their other so-called hair rock contemporaries, Kix would see their fortunes crushed with the advent of grunge. The band would solider on with the release of the more mature Hot Wire.

tags: kix, blow my fuse, 1988, flac,

June 25, 2018

The Flaming Lips - Telepathic Surgery (1989)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Experimental Rock
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© 1989 Restless Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
With a few more studio tweaks and tricks at play, part of the band's continual efforts to find out just what could be done with a studio, Telepathic Surgery is pretty much the companion piece to Oh My Gawd!!!, blending the same great, crazy combination of influences into the mix. That the opening track has everything from a rushed Sonic Youth rhythm roil to heavily flanged guitar solos that are all treble and back again isn't surprising at all, really. Coyne later described the album as more open-ended experimentation with overdubs than a collection of songs per se -- some of the random orchestral samples and other drop-ins indicate as much -- but Telepathic Surgery has its joys, as much garage rock nuttiness as fried, off-kilter post-punk. Coyne himself is still in rough voice in plenty of places, but finding his own bit by bit; he still doesn't really sound like he would in the '90s, but the gentler side creeps in here and there. "Chrome Plated Suicide," another in the string of Lips songs with brilliant titles, has him sounding a lot more wistful than on numerous other full-on crunch monsters. Call it the bells on "Chrome Plated Suicide" that also help the slightly dreamier feeling, even as Coyne peels off a nicely zonked guitar solo halfway through. Other fun titles (and fine songs) include "Redneck School of Technology" and "The Spontaneous Combustion of John," the latter a short but fun little track. Then there's the cryptic subtitle of "Hari-Krishna Stomp Wagon" -- "f*ck Led Zeppelin" -- which may yet forever remain a mystery given the Lips' own clear influence by said group. The most notorious track actually only surfaced on the CD version -- "Hell's Angel's Cracker Factory," a nearly 25-minute-long zone through backwards-run vocals, endless solos, trance drums, and more.

tags: the flaming lips, telepathic surgery, 1989, flac,

The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (2002)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Space Rock
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© 2002 Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
After the symphonic majesty of The Soft Bulletin, the Flaming Lips return with Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, a sublime fusion of Bulletin's newfound emotional directness, the old-school playfulness of Transmissions From the Satellite Heart, and, more importantly, exciting new expressions of the group's sentimental, experimental sound. While the album isn't as immediately impressive as the equally brilliant and unfocused Soft Bulletin, it's more consistent, using a palette of rounded, surprisingly emotive basslines; squelchy analog synths; and manicured acoustic guitars to craft songs like "One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21," a sleekly melancholy tale of robots developing emotions, and "In the Morning of the Magicians," an aptly named electronic art rock epic that sounds like a collaboration between the Moody Blues and Wendy Carlos. Paradoxically, the Lips use simpler arrangements to create more diverse sounds on Yoshimi, spanning the lush, psychedelic reveries of "It's Summertime"; the instrumental "Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon"; the dubby "Are You a Hypnotist?"; and the barely organized chaos of "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 2," which defeats the evil metal ones with ferocious drums, buzzing synths, and the razor sharp howl of the Boredoms' Yoshimi. Few bands can craft life-affirming songs about potentially depressing subjects (the passage of time, fighting for what you care about, good vs. evil) as the Flaming Lips, and on Yoshimi, they're at the top of their game. "Do You Realize??" is the standout, so immediately gorgeous that it's obvious that it's the single. It's also the most obviously influenced by The Soft Bulletin, but it's even catchier and sadder, sweetening such unavoidable truths like "Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?" with chimes, clouds of strings, and angelic backing vocals. Yoshimi features some of the sharpest emotional peaks and valleys of any Lips album -- the superficially playful "Fight Test" is surprisingly bittersweet, while sad songs like "All We Have Is Now" and "Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell" are leavened by witty lyrics and production tricks. Funny, beautiful, and moving, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots finds the Flaming Lips continuing to grow and challenge themselves in not-so-obvious ways after delivering their obvious masterpiece.

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The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics (2006)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Space Rock
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© 2006 Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
Since 1999's The Soft Bulletin, the Flaming Lips have issued an album once every three or four years -- roughly once per presidential term, making At War with the Mystics the second album they've made during George W. Bush's presidency. While Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots' themes of seizing the moment and accepting mortality could easily be read as a reaction to 9/11, At War with the Mystics is a more overtly timely album for the mid-to-late 2000s, dealing with the motivation behind the war in Iraq and Bush's presidency. By grappling with heavy subjects like these, it could seem like the Flaming Lips are taking their role as one of America's most prominent and beloved alternative rock bands too seriously, but Mystics' light touch shows that they can still be important without being self-important. In fact, the album's most pointed tracks are the most playful. As they did on Yoshimi's "Fight Test," the Lips couch their aggression in bouncy melodies and playful production tricks. With its robotic doo wop vocals and strummy acoustic guitars, "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" -- which asks its listeners if they could do any better if they were handed all the power in the world -- sounds oddly like a Paul Simon song updated for the 21st (or maybe even 22nd) century. "Free Radicals," which sounds like Prince via Beck with a dash of Daft Punk, and "Haven't Got a Clue," which boasts the refrain "Every time you state your case, the more I want to punch your face," get their points across emphatically -- almost too emphatically, actually, for as catchy as these songs are, they don't really expand on their thoughts or sounds much. However, the middle section of At War with the Mystics is expansive and intimate at the same time, like many of the Flaming Lips' best moments have been. "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion" and "Vein of Stars" play like updates of The Soft Bulletin's effortless, weightless beauty, and "The Sound of Failure" is a reminder that it's OK to be sad sometimes (while getting in digs at the teen pop platitudes of Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani) set to a gorgeous backdrop of soft rock flutes and guitars and twittering electronics. This stretch of songs plays almost like a suite, which ties right in with At War with the Mystics' prog rock leanings. Pink Floyd is a major influence on the entire album: "The Wizard Turns On..." is a spacey, late-night instrumental that could easily be synched to The Wizard of Oz, while "Pompeii Am G├Âtterd├Ąmmerung" also taps into Floyd's elaborate, epic power. These trippy moments make At War with the Mystics the most psychedelic and least immediate album the Flaming Lips have done in a long, long time, and the way that Mystics bounces back and forth between its ethereal and zany moments gives it a disjointed, uneven feel that makes the album a shade less satisfying than either Yoshimi or Soft Bulletin. Still, as standout tracks like "Mr. Ambulance Driver" and "Goin' On" show, the band is still fighting the good fight and confronting the bad things in life with hope, optimism, and just the right amount of (magical) realism.

tags: the flaming lips, at war with the mystics, 2006, flac,

June 24, 2018

Erasure - Chorus (1991)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1991 Mute
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
No longer making a big American splash outside of its fanbase and alternative radio -- and about to be turned into yesterday's news thanks to the techno/hardcore explosion -- Erasure on Chorus concentrated on just sounding like itself. With the notable exception of the hypersassy "Love to Hate You," Bell steers away from campiness in favor of a series of gentler meditations and impassioned pleas. "Chorus" itself is another great Erasure anthem, Clarke providing just the right combination of beat and melody for Bell's surprisingly effective tackling of environmental degredation. Other cuts like "Breath of Life" and "Turns the Love to Anger" keep the quicker, more specifically high-paced dance pace going, but most of the best cuts come with the quieter numbers. Happily, rather than revamping the basic ballad format often used on earlier albums, Clarke keeps throwing in unexpected touches while Bell comes up with some inspired and often affecting lyrics. "Am I Right?" reflects on love and aging with a gentle tone and soft hip-hop beat, while "Joan" adds a touch of gospel in Bell's backing harmonies to a more prominent breakbeat with equally fine results. Also intriguing is how the final songs of the album, while individually not among the band's best, still blend together to provide an excellent conclusion, from the wistful philosophy of "Siren Song" and the romantic entanglement of "Perfect Stranger" to the concluding "Home." Something of a sequel to "Hideaway" set a few years later, Bell sings of continuing to follow his own path over lovely backing from Clarke, a fine way to end the album.

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Erasure - I Say I Say I Say (1994)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1994 Mute
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
Released three years after Chorus, I Say I Say I Say found Erasure for the first time fully interested in essentially staying in place. The album as a whole is at base an attractively redressed version of what the duo had already done, the occasional slight surprise notwithstanding. While Clarke in particular shows some virtuosity with his performances, helped by Human League/Heaven 17 veteran Martyn Ware's production, I Say lacks any real novelty (certainly Bell's singing isn't going to change any earlier perceptions, positive or negative). It's not as experimentally indulgent as the self-titled album or unfortunately unmemorable as Cowboy, but it's still not quite the group at its sharp pop finest track for track. When it does succeed, though, it has plenty of the flash and verve of old. "Always," the wonderful ballad that was the album's lead single, with a slightly quirky opening, strong verses both musically and lyrically, and a flat-out brilliant chorus, Bell's impassioned delivery one of his finest moments. I Say's lead-off one/two combination is also a winner; "Take Me Back" also plays the sweeping, slow card effectively, Bell in particular getting in some fine singing. "I Love Saturday," meanwhile, neatly balances pepped up energy on Clarke's part with a lower-key delivery from Bell, a striking combination that makes for a better result than the strident, full-on pep of "Run to the Sun." Other winners include "Man in the Moon," which has a delightful chorus with a sweetly silly pipe/synth melody, "So the Story Goes," and "Miracle," the last two of which feature the singing of a cathedral choir. It's a nice look ahead to the reach of the self-titled record, though, with more pop-friendly song lengths and two of Bell's best, strongest performances on the album.

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Erasure - Erasure (1995)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1995 Elektra, Mute
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
Having continued course on I Say I Say I Say without adding much to its overall reputation, Erasure took a surprising turn on its self-titled album. With statements at the time indicating Clarke claimed inspiration from the complexity and reach of prog-rock keyboard experiments, the duo entered a less pop-friendly turn for this extensive record. Clarke definitely aims for a more spacy atmosphere throughout Erasure, assisted by sometime Orb compatriot Thomas Fehlmann. While the catchy hooks with which Clarke made his name remain, the arrangements show more grandiose reflections and less full-on dancefloor fun, more Jarre than Moroder. Songs are often much longer than the quick, punchy numbers the duo became known for, sometimes getting a bit lost along the way as a result. Bell, to his credit, matches Clarke's ambitions well, trying different vocal deliveries, especially with his trademark backing vocal overdubs -- "Rescue Me" being a great example of that. While the overall results don't lead to a fully spectacular record, it's certainly Erasure's most experimental, an indulgence that pays off in surprising ways. One of the more interesting features of the album is who helps out on it -- the London Community Gospel Choir takes a wonderful bow on two tracks, the quietly intoxicating lead single "Stay With Me" and the gentle shimmer of "Rock Me Gently." In one of the more unlikely guest appearances of the time, meanwhile, Mute labelmate Diamanda Galas delivers haunting solo turns on "Rock Me Gently" and "Angel." If not as harrowing as much of her own work, it does provide an interesting addition to a duo not known for its particularly dark vision of life.

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Erasure - Cowboy (1997)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1997 Maverick/Mute Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
The calmer inner meditations of Erasure behind them, the duo found themselves on Madonna's label in America and released the notably more upbeat Cowboy in 1997. The zeitgeist that the duo perfectly encapsulated in the late '80s had long been left behind, resulting in an album that sounds like it wants to keep the party going when all the guests had long gone home. While Erasure itself could drag here and there, it was still an honestly intriguing combination of new and old for the band, something the pleasant (but little more than that) Cowboy can't claim. At base, the problem is that while the basic Erasure knack of hummable hooks and fine singing remains unchanged, something seems missing -- what made songs like "A Little Respect," "Stop!," and "Chorus" more than enjoyably catchy pop isn't there. Cowboy is amiable but not memorable. Vince Clarke to his credit doggedly resists flat out following current pop trends in the hopes of greater relevance, so there's something to be said for sticking to one's guns. His usual preferred combination of gentler lead synths and rougher bass tones sounds enjoyably supple as well, with perhaps the only concession to late-'90s pop being a greater use of hip-hop beats. Andy Bell's voice as always hits its fine sweet-sounding heights. But beyond a cut or two, very little honestly connects beyond that, sad to say. "In My Arms," released as a single, has an attractive air to it, with a nicely sweeping chorus, but feels a little too relaxed, not as flat out energetic as it could be.

tags: erasure, cowboy, 1997, flac,

June 22, 2018

Erasure - Wild! (1989)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1989 Sire, Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
Following the commercial and critical success of The Innocents, Erasure sidestepped slightly on Wild!, with slightly mixed results. On the one hand, the by-now-established Erasure song formula resulted in a number of tunes sounding like revamps of earlier numbers, diminishing the overall impact. "How Many Times?" is a ballad by numbers, while, some amusing bitchiness from Bell aside, "2000 Miles" is nice but a timekiller. One or two other cuts fall into this category, making Wild! something of a choppy affair at best. On the other hand, Erasure tries stretching its most since the orchestrated rerecordings on The Two-Ring Circus, often with great success. "Drama!" has a slightly hysterical tone to it, but its strong dancefloor surge and weirdly droning backing Bell harmonies help make it another winner. The gangshout /vocals (background) are also a kick as well -- especially as they were provided in part, via an uncredited appearance, by the Jesus and Mary Chain! "You Surround Me" is another flat-out winner -- it's another slow ballad, but with big, echoing backing that adds a sense of extra theatricality. Other strong numbers include the relatively low key pulse of "Blue Savannah," which sounds like a light motorik/Kraftwerk number given the appropriate Erasure sparkle, and the charging "Brother and Sister," with a sharp synth hook and chorus. Beginning and ending with versions of "Piano Song," the latter letting Bell get in some of his best singing, Wild! is a mixed but still worthy affair.

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Devo - Something For Everybody (2010)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop Rock, Synth Pop
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© 2010 Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
Coming in way above their previous effort, 1990’s Smooth Noodle Maps, Something for Everybody is the album Devo's fans had craved for 28 long years, or maybe 29, if you fall on the sour side of the iffy Oh, No! It's Devo. The synthetic, compressed, and punchy production -- courtesy of producer and Bird & the Bee member Greg Kurstin -- is a modern take on the sound of 1981’s New Traditionalists, and if you judge by hooks, this is right in line with their 1980 breakthrough, Freedom of Choice, although there’s certainly no “Whip It”-sized megahit here. Instead, there’s the opening “Fresh!” a herky-jerky, infectious number with lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh stuttering as if he just created New Wave’s “My Generation.” The wicked highlight “Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man)” (“They’ll hunt you down/And tase you bro/For playing with the rules”) is the album’s other key track, thanks to Mothersbaugh’s perfect framing of de-evolution’s give (hybrid cars) and take, take, take (Beltway snipers, overzealous cops, etc.). Both highlights are co-produced by Santigold who, like Kurstin, checks her ego at the door, allowing the five spud boys to sound like a functioning band. The twangy guitars of Bob 1 are perfectly balanced with the synths and electronic percussion from new member Josh Freese, while Mothersbaugh’s ironic downers are complemented by co-frontman Jerry Casale’s more snide and silly songs, and the two attempts to re-create the sarcastic grandeur of their masterpiece “Beautiful World” -- with “Later Is Now” and “No Place Like Home” -- come pretty darn close. While some will complain that the satirical social commentary just isn’t as razor-sharp, and that the wild, primal nerdiness of their first two efforts is long gone, the purposeful Something for Everybody is proudly not a nostalgia trip and is, instead, filled with age-appropriate subversion, right up to its ironic title. "Something for Veteran Fans" is more like it with "Something Surprisingly Vital" being an even better choice.

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Kingdom Come - Bad Image (1993)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1993 WEA
AllMusic Review by Jason Anderson
Years after any remaining U.S. interest in Lenny Wolf and his Robert Plant sound-alike voice had vanished, the singer and his "band" Kingdom Come (really just a solo vehicle for Wolf) continued to release material marketed mostly in the frontman's German homeland. Bad Image, from 1993, is one such collection of forgettable hard rock. The only memorable things about this recording -- and Kingdom Come in general -- are Wolf's timbre and phrasing, which so succinctly ape golden-era Led Zeppelin vocals. The whole exercise seems rather strange, considering that Wolf probably could have made ten times the money impersonating Plant instead of composing music of his own and thereby competing with his idol's historic work. As difficult as Wolf's identity crisis was for rock fans to accept, it's the singer's accompaniment that really limits the appeal of Bad Image. The various attempts at '80s power ballads ("Friends," the stilted commercial hard rock "Little Wild Thing," and others) have a dramatically un-Zeppelin sound that was heavily dated years before this recording hit the streets. Wolf has a unique skill, and probably deserves a little credit for his high-register crooning, but shapeless vehicles like Bad Image failed the vocalist while he struggled for relevancy.

tags: kingdom come, bad image, 1993, flac,

Kingdom Come - Twilight Cruiser (1995)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1995 Viceroy Music
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: kingdom come, twilight cruiser, 1995, flac,

Kingdom Come - Master Seven (1997)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1997 Viceroy Music
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: kingdom come, master seven, 1977, flac,

June 20, 2018

Erasure - Wonderland (1986) ☠

*U.S. pressing. Contains 12 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1986-1987 Sire Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
The duo's full debut was a sparkling collection of synth-pop tunes that made up in enthusiasm and immediate catchiness what it lacked in overall variety or any sense of artistic progression from Clarke's past. Though the production, one of Flood's earliest high-profile efforts, is detailed and often lush, anyone who had followed Clarke's career wouldn't be surprised by anything on Wonderland. Bell's vocals merely tie the connections to the past further, his at-times too-shrill-for-comfort falsetto inevitably echoing Yaz's Alison Moyet as well as one-time Assembly vocalist Feargal Sharkey. Allowing for all these inevitable reminders, though, still means Wonderland is well worth a listen. The key reason is the smash U.K. single "Oh l'Amour," which rapidly became a staple for American modern rock stations as well. A lovely a cappella opening and instantly catchy hook, not to mention sprightly performances from Clarke and Bell both (the latter wisely undersings rather than pushing the flamboyance, letting loose more on the chorus), ensured its classic status. The two other singles, "Who Needs Love Like That" and "Heavenly Action," aren't quite as strong but work in the general formula quite well regardless. Other album cuts are a touch more scattered in quality; nothing is awful, but there are some definite highlights. The slightly slower "Cry So Easy" has a great chorus, giving Bell a chance to show his chops, while "March on Down the Line" moves with a fine positive energy, an anthem without calling attention to itself as such. "Say What" is an interesting mostly instrumental, aside from a gang shout or two of the title, letting Clarke's compositional abilities come to the fore on their own.

tags: erasure, wonderland, 1986, 1987, flac,

Erasure - The Circus (1987)

*U.S. pressing. Contains 3 bonus tracks. 13 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1987 Sire, Mute Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
Having gotten familiar with each other and the public on Wonderland, Clarke and Bell aim their sights higher with its follow-up, a more distinct all-around album. Flood once again mans the production boards, helping bring out Clarke's greater number of individual touches and approaches to great effect. It can be the queasy synth whoosh on "Don't Dance," the chunky pseudo-guitar blasts on lead track and single "It Doesn't Have to Be," or the funhouse keyboards on the title song, a cautionary environmental tale, all testaments to Clarke's ever-strengthening pushback of synth-pop's presumed sound and cliches. Bell in turn is finding more to do with his voice, his breathy crooning more seductive and affecting, while his high-volume calls to musical arms generally avoid hyper-ear-piercing levels in favor of general appeal. Exceptions do crop up, admittedly "Sexuality," which has a slightly clumsy chorus to begin with, and Bell's histrionics don't help it. But when the two members are on, they're on in a big way, and the two major hit singles from The Circus are prime examples of Erasure in excelsis. "Victim of Love" has Bell showing off some great soul chops right from the start over an inspiring, charging melody, while "Sometimes" contains a strong dance beat and Clarke's synth/acoustic guitar mix underscoring Bell's call for love. Elsewhere, the band's social conscience makes itself known without sounding obvious, especially on "Hideaway." Detailing the coming-out of a young man to his family and his resultant need to leave home, it makes its point with drama but not histrionics, Bell's multi-tracked chorus at once uplifting and empathetic.

tags: erasure, the circus, 1987, flac,

Erasure - The Innocents (1988)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1988 Sire, Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
Having built up a strong fan base and back catalogue in just a couple of years, Erasure turned into a full-blown pop phenomenon thanks to The Innocents, winning the British equivalent of the Grammy for album of the year and spawning a big American hit single, "Chains of Love." Stephen Hague took over as producer from Flood, perhaps smoothing out some points for a more general mainstream appeal but otherwise letting the strengths of the songs speak for themselves. It begins with another single and stone-cold classic, "A Little Respect," with a charging beat/acoustic guitar/synth arrangement and a flat-out fantastic performance from Bell, especially on the ascending chorus. Guest performances help flesh out a number of songs quite well. Wheeler and others reappear on "Yahoo!," a gospel-touched (musically and lyrically) number, while noted session performers the Kick Horns add just that to the "please come back" punch of "Heart of Stone." On their own, though, the duo continues in the same general vein of earlier releases while the Erasure formula of dance/synth/soul was now clearly established through and through, thankfully the combination of slight variety and overall performance prevents the album from dragging. The Innocents' ballads are perhaps a touch prettier than the lyrics would make them out to be, but if the sheen of songs like "Hallowed Ground" cuts away from the sometimes blunt images of poverty and hopelessness Bell calls up, the music still has a solid power. The CD version adds a fine original, "When I Needed You," and a fun cover of the Phil Spector/Ike and Tina Turner classic "River Deep, Mountain High."

tags: erasure, the innocents, 1988, flac,