September 30, 2018

Aceyalone - A Book of Human Language (1998)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1998 Project Blowed
AllMusic Review by Bill Cassel
A hip-hop concept album with a rather broad concept: the main thread seems to be that the song titles all begin with "The" ("The March," "The Vision," "The Hunt," etc.). If A Book of Human Language's 20 tracks drag somewhat at times -- and are weighed down by a bit too much THC-induced profundity -- this is easily forgiven, since it is a relief to hear a rapper rap about something other than his own greatness. Aceyalone wins major points for even trying to tackle weighty topics like life, death, time, and language. The production is organic and rich, but just ragged enough to sound honest. Add in a spoken word excerpt from "Jabberwocky," exceedingly deft rhyming, and a hip-hop answer to Pink Floyd's "Time" ("The Grandfather Clock"), and you have a quite ambitious and pleasing package.

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Various Artists - Project Blowed (1995)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1995 Massmen Records
AllMusic Review by Nathan Rabin
At a time when 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G.'s tragically over-hyped beef threatened to give hip-hop a black eye in the public consciousness, the ever-idealistic Aceyalone was attempting to unite the progressive wing of West Coast hip-hop through Project Blowed. Drawing inspiration from the titular open-mic night and label, Project Blowed maps out a bold new direction for the West Coast underground, bringing together wildly diverse acts whose common bond is a shared love and respect for hip-hop coupled with a desire to expand its musical, thematic, and lyrical horizons. A defiantly low-fi, low-budget compilation that makes even underground projects like Rawkus' Lyricist Lounge and Soundbombing series look like the collected lost singles of Puff Daddy, Project Blowed makes up for what it lacks in slickness with creativity, originality, and a strong sense of purpose. Guided by the progressive vision of A-Teamers Aceyalone and Abstract Rude, Project Blowed runs the gamut of far-left indie hip-hop, from the bizarrely literal pimp rap of Tray Loc's "Once Upon a Freak" to Figure Uv Speech's bluntly feminist and black nationalist "Don't Get It Twisted," a remarkably assured blend of jazz, poetry, spoken word, and hip-hop. Executive producer Aceyalone makes his presence felt throughout, reuniting with Freestyle Fellowship for the jazzy give and take of "Hot" and teaming with fellow A-Teamer Abstract Rude for "Maskaraid Part 1 & 2," a characteristically ambitious and conceptual track abstractly criticizing hip-hop's propensity for posturing and role-playing. Project Blowed's lo-fi aesthetic and willingness to experiment may alienate even fans of like-minded but far slicker underground acts like Mos Def, De La Soul, and Black Star. But for those tuned into Aceyalone and company's bohemian, progressive take on hip-hop, Project Blowed is coffeehouse hip-hop at its finest.

tags: various artists, project blowed, 1995, flac,

4 Non Blondes - Bigger, Better, Faster, More! (1992)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Folk Rock, Alternative Rock
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© 1992 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by Tom Demalon
San Francisco's 4 Non Blondes burst onto the national scene with their massive, neo-hippie anthem "What's Up" from their debut Bigger, Better, Faster, More? Although they failed to recreate the single's success, the album, as a whole, is a fairly engaging mix of alternative rock, quasi-funk, and blues.
The focal point is on lead singer Linda Perry who also plays guitar and was the primary writer of the material. Perry has a powerful set of pipes akin to Johnette Napolitano, but, unfortunately, she tends to cut loose when a little more restraint would benefit the proceedings. However, "Superfly" is a feel good, funky number and "Spaceman"'s yearning lyrics are delivered over a quiet, martial drum rhythm. A solid debut that got lost in the wake of its mammoth hit.

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Ugly Kid Joe - America's Least Wanted (1992)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1992 Mercury/Stardog Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Ugly Kid Joe's first full-length album reprises the hit "Everything About You" from their debut EP As Ugly as They Wanna Be and delivers a set of similar rockers and a handful of power ballads, including a revamped version of Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle." Listeners who are too far removed from their adolescence to remember the joys of spitballs and Saturday schools won't find America's Least Wanted engaging in the least, but it wasn't designed for them. Ugly Kid Joe rocks for the average high school kid, the one that doesn't think about anything except girls, partying, and metal. On the whole, the band's mixture of fizzy, fuzzy riffs, sing-song melodies, and calculated obnoxiousness isn't that offensive, but it will certainly try the patience of anyone who doesn't find their cutesy vulgarity fun. For fans of the band, America's Least Wanted delivers the thrills.

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Ugly Kid Joe - Menace To Sobriety (1995)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1995 Polygram Records
AllMusic Review by Leslie Mathew
On their second full-length album, California's rattiest pop-metal scuzzbags let their dim light shine. When they made it big with "Everything About You," everything about Ugly Kid Joe screamed "one-hit wonder," but on Menace to Sobriety the bandmembers prove they're not going to let their 15 minutes go quietly. Forget the pop, Menace is UKJ's metal offering. Out come the Sabbath references, the monster grooves, and the snarly vocals: This is as ugly as they got. The band's schoolyard sense of humor is still intact, and here the Joe backs it up with the ability to bring the noise, big time. Add grunge maven GGGarth's spanking tight production, and Menace is by far the UKJ album with the most bang for your buck. Highlights include the funk-addled punch of "C.U.S.T.," the coiled surge of "Jesus Rode a Harley," and Whitfield Crane's venomous vocal turn on "God." Ironically though, Menace to Sobriety turned out to be Ugly Kid Joe's poorest seller, and the band was dropped by its label, Mercury, soon after. America's Least Wanted, indeed.

tags: ugly kid joe, menace to sobriety, 1995, flac,

Ugly Kid Joe - Motel California (1996)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock, Alternative Rock
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© 1996 Castle Communications
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Motel California is Ugly Kid Joe return to their roots, bashing out grungy metal in their garage and recording it for posterity. Of course, there's a couple problems in this concept. Ugly Kid Joe never wanted to play in the garage, they always lusted after the arenas -- they were just forced into the garage after being dropped by their major label. Surprisingly, Motel California works a lot better than it should, sounding fiercer and more committed. The group still has problems with writing hooks, but they sound better than ever. Ironically, fewer people than ever will hear them now.

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September 29, 2018

Blue Murder - Blue Murder (1989)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1989 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
After helping singer David Coverdale reinvent Whitesnake both sonically and aesthetically for the image-conscious American market, guitar hero John Sykes acrimoniously left the group when it became apparent that there was only room enough for one overblown ego in it: Coverdale's. Hardly ones to let a good thing slip away, though, the executives at Whitesnake's label, Geffen Records (specifically A&R super-guru John Kalodner), immediately signed Sykes to a new development deal and proceeded to aid and abet him in founding his own supergroup, Blue Murder, with veteran bassist Tony Franklin and nearly geriatric drummer Carmine Appice (whose career probably started before Sykes was even born!). Released in 1989, the power trio's eponymous debut was produced to pompous perfection by none other than Bob Rock, whose golden ears for bombastic yet consumer-friendly '80s metal were truly second to none at the time -- other than the one and only Mutt Lange, of course. And perhaps more than any of Rock's jobs prior to his hook-up with Metallica, Blue Murder proves it, thanks to songs ranging from muscular power-chord hell-fests like "Riot" and "Blue Murder"; to blues-inflected fare like "Jelly Roll" (whose video was soon all over MTV); to the all-important, overly lush (and frankly not all that good) power ballad "Out of Love." But the album has also become rather dated over the years, because of its frequent indulgence in the same sort of unchecked, peroxide-fueled "Bad Zeppelin-isms" that were then being shamelessly appropriated by bands like Kingdom Come and Sykes' own former boss, David Coverdale, and the reborn Whitesnake. As such, prime offenders like the gratuitously preening "Sex Child," the impressively epic "Valley of the Kings," and the disappointingly tepid "Ptolemy" abused this ethically flawed (if unquestionably effective, from a sales standpoint) gimmick at its most grotesquely histrionic -- but no more so than any of the other groups cited above, really. And because Blue Murder's songwriting was relatively consistent and their musicianship beyond reproach throughout, it's easy to understand why this album has endured far better than most similarly styled heavy metal albums of the era.

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Mary J. Blige - No More Drama (2002 Reissue)

*Reissued in 2002 by MCA Records with a new cover and a different track list. Contains 17 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 2001-2002 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Liana Jonas
Mary J. Blige has come a long way since 1992's breakthrough, What's the 411?, and that's made very clear on this solid disc. The singer/songwriter has blossomed into an all-out R&B diva -- with a hip-hop edge -- full of soul and command. Her songs on this recording exude the wisdom of a woman who's seen it all and has found her center. The woman's voice is truly inimitable. It's husky, strong, soulful, and full of maturity. She can still flow like no one's business, too; just check out the bouncy album opener "Love." While love is a common theme, No More Drama is essentially a personal journey through evolution and spirituality. The final cut, "Testimony," best summarizes the album's theme: finding what's real in life. For Blige, that's self-love and God. Blige has a killer instinct for penning lyrics that people can relate to and creating gritty, thick, and soul-infused R&B fare. Her music is more than heard. It is felt, and audiences would be hard-pressed to not surrender to her groove. [No More Drama was re-released in early 2002 with a handful of different tracks.]

tags: mary j blige, no more drama, reissue, 2001, 2002, flac,

Sadus - Swallowed In Black (1990)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Thrash Metal
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© 1990 R/C Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
For their second album, 1990's Swallowed in Black, death-thrashers Sadus decided to lie back a little and tone down their rampant speed and aggression somewhat -- yeah right! Fact is, for any but the most radical and perceptive of metalheads, Swallowed in Black still rages with seemingly endless stores of hate and hostility and, thanks to blazing opener "Black" and numerous short-and-sweet bursts like the riff-tastic "Last Abide" or the self-explanatory "In Your Face," probably still holds a few land-speed records even now. But it also sees the Bay Area quartet indulging in a far greater variety of tempos (see the slow and atmospheric buildup to "Man Infestation," and the wildly varied, extended tour de force "Arise") and introducing additional doses of melody, with guitarists Darren Travis and Rob Moore expertly intertwining many a clean guitar figure into their reliably manic and restless rhythm playing. If there is anything that remains perfectly status quo in comparison to their first LP, it's the way Sadus manage to stand poised, right on the borderline between thrash and death metal. The former, older style's hallmark staccato assault still drives tracks like "The Wake" and the notably Exodus-like "Powers of Hate," even as those oft-slower tempos, Jon Allen's abundant double bass-drum heroics, and the crustier disposition of Travis' lead vocals also qualify for inclusion under the new metallic order. Finally, even though he was hardly invisible on the band's impressive debut, here fretless bassist extraordinaire Steve DiGiorgio truly begins to stand out from his nearly as accomplished bandmates. With his blinding and intricate contributions throughout, but especially in "Good Rid'nz" and "Oracle of Obmission," DiGiorgio effectively makes his case for the high demand he would enjoy as an extreme metal session player in years to come. As for Sadus, the band, their standing as favorite sons of the first death metal wave remains secure, thanks to fine efforts like Swallowed in Black.

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Sadus - A Vision of Misery (1992)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Thrash Metal
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© 1992 R/C Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
After two fine albums straddling the stylistic transition between thrash and death metal, Sadus pretty much committed to the latter with their third, 1992's A Vision of Misery. Really, they had no choice, given thrash metal's increasing obsolescence and death's simultaneous rise. Still, this move nevertheless resulted in one of two conclusions: at best Sadus sacrificed the key thrashing component that had helped make them special and somewhat unique; at worst it exposed them as carryovers from the bygone generation. Under either assumption, A Vision of Misery was hardly some kind of failure, with new compositions such as "Through the Eyes of Greed," "Machines," and "Echoes of Forever" epitomizing technical death metal, while not exactly measuring up to genre standard-bearers like Death and Morbid Angel. And, although they certainly lose some of their sharp claws due to the overall denser guitar sound chosen here, it's actually the band's increasing reliance on mid-paced tempos and repetitive riffs that winds up dragging down other selections like "Slave to Misery" and the way overlong but otherwise solid "Facelift." Even so, for fans of Sadus' habitually inventive arrangements and sharp dynamic shifts, there's plenty on offer here. And note to the Steve DiGiorgio fan club: his mind-boggling bass licks and impossible tricks are still regularly splattered all over these tracks, even if often crushed deeper in the mix. Unfortunately, DiGiorgio soon accepted an offer to go off on tour with the far more lucrative Death, leaving Sadus in limbo for the next half-decade.

tags: sadus, a vision of misery, 1992, flac,

September 28, 2018

Bitch - The Bitch Is Back (1987)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1987 Enigma/Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
Outrageous and provocative, L.A. heavy metal band Bitch earned a small but loyal following in the early '80s with its humorous odes to bondage/S&M. Though lead singer Betsy Bitch's portrayal of the dominatrix from hell was very tongue-in-cheek, the band had its share of critics -- who ranged from feminists on the left to Christian fundamentalists on the right. By the time The Bitch Is Back was released in 1987, the headbangers had come to feel that the S&M element was overshadowing their music, and toned their lyrics down a bit. Though the album contains fewer references to whips, chains, and handcuffs than Bitch's previous releases, Damnation Alley (1981) or Be My Slave (1983), the band was still gutsier and much more arresting than so many of the "corporate metal" outfits dominating L.A.'s metal/hard rock scene in 1987. When Betsy (who still came across as a much wilder version of Pat Benatar) tears into a heartfelt cover of Elton John's "The Bitch Is Back" and bombastic originals like "Fist to Face," "Skullcrusher," and "Hot and Heavy," she makes it clear how brutally fun real metal can be.

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Rock City Angels - Young Man's Blues (1988)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1988 Geffen Records
Review by "the newt" for Ear of Newt.com
Fans of Guns N’ Roses should seriously consider checking out this double-disc debut because it sports the same brand of raggedy, Aerosmith/Dolls-influenced ’70s rock that has made GN’R such a big deal these days.
here’s plenty of excellent boogie on the fast-paced tunes like “Hard to Hold”, “Our Little Secret”, and “Hush Child”. And the gritty, under-your-skin funkiness of “Beyond Babylon” and “Rough ‘n’ Tumble” makes those songs standouts on the same level as “Sweet Child O’ Mine”.
Expect to hear a lot from these guys in the near future.

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Blonz - Blonz (1990)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1990 Epic/Imagine Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
This self-titled album has all the trademarks of late '80s/early '90s pop-metal and hard rock -- big hair, big guitars and a big, glossy production. Bands like Poison, Warrant, Bon Jovi and Winger were selling millions of albums at the time, and some labels reasoned that one way to make a quick buck was to sign bands that went out of their way to emulate the popular hard rockers of the day. A lot of generic, faceless bands got signed to major labels, and Blonz was an unfortunate example. There's nothing wrong with commercial arena rock as long as you have the right hooks and some degree of originality -- contrary to what many rock critics believe, not everyone has to be as deep and meaningful as U2, Tori Amos or Nirvana. But Blonz (not to be confused with 4 Non Blondes) fails to provide any memorable hooks, and no traces of originality are shown on knee-jerk, contrived numbers like "Sexy Ride," "What's On Your Mind" and "Skintight" (not to be confused with the Ohio Players' funk classic). Blonz is about as generic, insincere and faceless as it gets.

tags: blonz, blonz album, 1990, flac,

Notorious B.I.G. - Ready To Die (1994)

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

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap, Gangsta Rap
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© 1994 Bad Boy Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
The album that reinvented East Coast rap for the gangsta age, Ready to Die made the Notorious B.I.G. a star, and vaulted Sean "Puffy" Combs' Bad Boy label into the spotlight as well. Today it's recognized as one of the greatest hardcore rap albums ever recorded, and that's mostly due to Biggie's skill as a storyteller. His raps are easy to understand, but his skills are hardly lacking -- he has a loose, easy flow and a talent for piling multiple rhymes on top of one another in quick succession. He's blessed with a flair for the dramatic, and slips in and out of different contradictory characters with ease. Yet, no matter how much he heightens things for effect, it's always easy to see elements of Biggie in his narrators and of his own experience in the details; everything is firmly rooted in reality, but plays like scenes from a movie. A sense of doom pervades his most involved stories: fierce bandits ("Gimme the Loot"), a hustler's beloved girlfriend ("Me & My Bitch"), and robbers out for Biggie's newfound riches ("Warning") all die in hails of gunfire. The album is also sprinkled with reflections on the soul-draining bleakness of the streets -- "Things Done Changed," "Ready to Die," and "Everyday Struggle" are powerfully affecting in their confusion and despair. Not everything is so dark, though; Combs' production collaborations result in some upbeat, commercial moments, and typically cop from recognizable hits: the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" on the graphic sex rap "One More Chance," Mtume's "Juicy Fruit" on the rags-to-riches chronicle "Juicy," and the Isley Brothers' "Between the Sheets" on the overweight-lover anthem "Big Poppa." Producer Easy Mo Bee's deliberate beats do get a little samey, but it hardly matters: this is Biggie's show, and by the time "Suicidal Thoughts" closes the album on a heartbreaking note, it's clear why he was so revered even prior to his death.

tags: notorious big, b.i.g., ready to die, 1994, flac,

Various Artists - Barbershop: Music From The Motion Picture (2002)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop, R&B
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© 2002 Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
At the time of its release, the various artists collection containing music from the motion picture Barber Shop boasted two tracks, Fabolous and P. Diddy featuring Jagged Edge's "Trade It All Part 2," and Ginuwine's "Stingy," that were rising on the R&B Top 40 charts, which seemed to bode well for this collection of rhythmic urban music. Typically, not a note of Terence Blanchard's score to the film was included, but there were three tracks on the album, Best Man's "I See You," Jordan Brown's "Better to Leave," and Collin's "Baby, Baby, Baby," not actually featured in the film, and P. Diddy and the Family's "And We" was presented in a different version from the one contained in the film. That last track was one of several marred by awkward and not very deceptive "clean" edits that managed to mangle the songs' rhythms without actually obscuring the vulgar intent of the lyrics. Much of the album, however, consisted of romantic ballads, and the package concluded with two old-school favorites: Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up (Part 1)" and the Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There." The album opened and closed with dialogue excerpts from the film that suggested it was a comedy keyed to the questionable macho wisdom that might be overheard in an establishment largely frequented by men.

tags: various artists, barbershop soundtrack, barber shop, ost, music from the motion picture, 2002, flac,

Various Artists - Ultimate Dance Party 1997 (1996) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: House, Freestyle
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1996 Artista Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Ultimate Dance Party 1997 contains many of the biggest dance hits of 1995 and 1996, including Quad City DJs' "Come On and Ride It (The Train)," La Bouche's "Be My Lover," Ace of Base's "Beautiful Life," Everything but the Girl's "Missing," Los Del Mar's "Macarena" (which is not the version with English lyrics), Annie Lennox's "No More I Love You's," Real McCoy's "Another Night" and Nicki French's "Total Eclipse of the Heart," among several others. All of the songs are presented in their original hit versions, which means the album is a very enjoyable dance and party record, as well as a good indication of the state of dance-pop in the mid-'90s.

tags: various artists, ultimate dance party 1997, 1996, flac,

September 26, 2018

Cyclone Temple - I Hate Therefore I Am (1991)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Thrash Metal
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© 1991 Combat/Relativity Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
1991 was a year of transition for rock. It was in late 1991 that Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's self-titled debut album were released; thanks to those ultra-influential albums, alternative rock took over MTV -- and the pop-metal and hair metal bands that had been huge in the 1980s went out of fashion. Arguably, 1991 was the last year in which rock's baby boomers were still in command; after that, Generation X dictated what you saw on MTV and what made the cover of Spin. Cyclone Temple was, in the early '90s, among the forward-thinking bands that were pointing heavy rock in new directions. When its debut album, I Hate Therefore I Am, came out in 1991, alternative metal outfits like Cyclone were not considered mainstream -- a few years later, they were. Unfortunately, Cyclone was not able to ride the alternative explosion of 1992-1993 to the top of the charts, but this CD is noteworthy just the same. While some alterna-metallers thrive on bombast for the sake of bombast, Cyclone is more intricate. I Hate Therefore I Am is, in its own way, every bit as musical as the 1980s fantasy metal of Queensryche and Iron Maiden (although the songs are more angular). But Cyclone is alternative all the way, and its forceful yet melodic brand of alterna-metal draws on influences that range from Living Colour to Anthrax and Metallica. The material is mildly funky, but not extremely funky; while Living Colour is among the influences, Cyclone doesn't pour on the funk to the degree that Living Colour, 24-7 Spyz, and the reunited Mother's Finest were pouring it on in the early '90s. Again, I Hate Therefore I Am was not a huge seller; Cyclone only had a small cult following. But that doesn't make this CD any less appealing.

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Cyclone Temple - My Friend Lonely (1994)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Thrash Metal
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© 1994 Monsterdisc Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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All About Eve - Ultraviolet (1992)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Gothic Rock, Alternative Rock
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© 1992 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Chris True
So, 1991's attempt at mainstream cred (Touched by Jesus) didn't work out. The label (PolyGram) didn't quite know what to do with All About Eve anymore, and the band was once again teetering on the edge of oblivion in 1992. What is a band to do? Well, for All About Eve, the first step was to overhaul the entire thing. Eschewing the admittedly adult contemporary sound of the previous full-length, the bandmembers went full bore for more indie cred, opting to recast themselves in a more "shoegazer" light. The leadoff single, "Phased," must have really raised a lot of eyebrows, given that the band had not just opted for adding effects and turning up the distortion, but restructuring the basic AAE song formula and giving the lyrics a bit more dreamlike quality, at the same time losing the more dramatic and maudlin stylings of the past. While it is not uncommon for bands to wagon-jump from time to time given popular tastes, many bands go for the surface, trying to capture the sound of what the current flavor is, without understanding the depth that is sometimes involved. And this is why Ultraviolet stands out a bit from the pack of pretenders. Firstly, Marty Willson-Piper has enough psychedelic cred on his own to help guide the band in the right direction -- there are some really key moments from the veteran Church guitarist on this one. More importantly, leader/vocalist Julianne Regan understands that the band can't just turn on the phase and chorus pedals and redo "Every Angel" as early-'90s British psych. Tracks like "Phased," "Freeze," and "Dream Butcher" are clean cuts with the past, a sense that the Eves had enough confidence to push aside obvious hooks to let long, floating melodies carry the weight of the song. But all is not lost in the shuffle, and the longstanding talents for hooks and melody rear up in dreamy gems like "Things He Told Her" and "Some Finer Day." To be sure, this is not a revolutionary statement, à la MBV's Loveless, but for the crop of bands enticed by the notion that noise could be beautiful, All About Eve's Ultraviolet rates pretty damn good. This would be the band's last official full-length release before going into a very long hiatus, which is a bit of a shame, given that Ultraviolet was possible proof that the band had more to offer.

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The Human League - Travelogue (1980)

*Original first pressing on CD. This pressing contains 7 extra tracks and 17 tracks total.

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop, Electronic
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© 1980-1988 Virgin Records
Review by Matt Collar for Allmusic.com
The Human League's second album, Travelogue, was their first to be released in the U.S. (Not that you would have noticed at the time, given the limited distribution; the album subsequently was picked up for reissue by Virgin/Atlantic in 1988.) It was also the last to feature the nearly original lineup of Martyn Ware, Ian Marsh, Philip Oakey, and Adrian Wright. Already, the band's synthesizer textures and Oakey's mannered voice were starting to lean in a pop direction, but much of this album retained the austere tone of earlier synthesizer groups such as Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. The conflicting musical directions led to a split in the band after this album, with Ware and Marsh forming Heaven 17 and Oakey and Wright reorganizing a new version of the Human League. Ironically, both ventures were more pop-oriented than before.

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The Human League - Crash (1986)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop
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© 1986 A&M Records
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
The Human League turned to American R&B producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in the wake of their success with Janet Jackson's Control, and the combination brought the group its second number one hit with the Jam-Lewis composition "Human," which harked back to the earlier "Don't You Want Me," albeit with a gentler tone. The album's second single, the Control-soundalike "I Need Your Loving," was also a Jam-Lewis song (as was the U.K.-only third single, "Love Is All That Matters"), but the bulk of the album was made up of group-written songs with appealing backing tracks that maintained their dance appeal while eschewing the overtly synthesized sound of previous albums. That made Crash an improvement over the lackluster Hysteria, but still not on a par with Dare

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September 25, 2018

Blue October - The Answers (1998)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 1998 Ro-Dan Productions
AllMusic Review by Eric Schneider
A decade after its initial release, Blue October’s 1998 debut, THE ANSWERS, was finally made widely available, allowing fans of the Texan alt-rock group to hear its formative sound in its beginnings. Often recalling sensitive rockers such as Live and Matchbox Twenty, the band excels at thoughtful grunge-influenced tunes, as revealed on the spare, wistful “Breakfast After Ten.”

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Blue October - Consent To Treatment (2000)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 2000 Universal Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Anderson
This major-label debut from Houston's Blue October is an obscure treat driven by an unconventional, dynamic, and intelligent rock energy. Vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Justin Furstenfeld comes off on Consent to Treatment like an angry, Midwestern Peter Gabriel who has been listening to too much Eddie Vedder. As Furstenfeld plows through one irascible breakup track after another, the theme of transformation -- isolation into independent, proud self-sufficiency -- places a specific cast on almost every pained yet exuberant lyric. With the somewhat unusual lineup of Jeremy Furstenfeld on drums, Matt Noveskey on bass, and Ryan Delahoussaye spicing things up with violin, vocalist Furstenfeld uses the considerable talents of his band with skill and finesse. Delahoussaye's transparent additions come off more like keyboard lines, as they are frequently stacked into sweeping harmonic movements sounding more like an entire string section than some kind of Dave Mathews jam rock noodling. Highlight tracks include the staunch "Breakfast After 10" and "Holler," but the material on Consent to Treatment is strong throughout. The lyrics are consistently good, the arrangements detailed and smart, and the hooks are sweet and sneaky. Furstenfeld is an legitimate talent, limited only by his anguished sincerity, which by the time of this 2000 release had been so overdone by lesser artists, creating a suspicion among the discerning listeners who Blue October's sophisticated rock seems meant for. Fans of '90s MOR (Dave Matthews, Third Eye Blind, and Creed) who want to stretch out their ears and minds should go crazy for this obscure alternative release.

tags: blue october, consent to treatment, 2000, flac,

Blue October - History For Sale (2003)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 2003 Universal Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Blue October's website describes at length the band's dogged perseverance in the wake of its unceremonious dismissal from Universal in 2001, detailing the extensive touring, soul-searching, and hard work that led to Blue October's latest set, History for Sale. But while History was originally issued through Dallas indie Brando, it now bears the imprint of and is distributed by the very label whose callousness supposedly led to the LP's creation -- that's right, Universal. The U-turn sees the release of History in a remastered, majors-friendly version. It also puts the rarefied pop of "Calling You" next to Foo Fighters on Universal's soundtrack for American Wedding. Stylistically, History for Sale isn't much different from 2000's Consent to Treatment. Furstenfeld's voice still suggests a Midwestern Peter Gabriel or a less sanctimonious Ed Kowalczyk, while his band works a sound inflected with both indie rock and populist post-alternative grooves. The aforementioned "Calling You" is a by-the-numbers modern rock radio ballad, dressed up with processed vocals and an anthemic melody that's more hopeful than much of History's material. Elsewhere, Furstenfeld is dour, bitter, and even vengeful. He dwells angrily on religion and his youth in "Razorblade," and delivers a rant to a lover in the first-person, Archers of Loaf-style screed "Sexual Powertrip." "Yeah, you opened your legs and maybe I promised you," he sings. "You didn't notice that my ankles were crossed." But while both tracks feature screeching guitars and cathartic uses of the F word, there's something missing beneath Furstenfeld's volatility. It's almost as if the band felt that a heavier sound was needed to justify the words, but couldn't quite muster the wherewithal to pull it off. Blue October is more convincing on the insistent surge of "A Quiet Mind," the low-key lullaby "3 Weeks, She Sleeps," or "Inner Glow," which seamlessly blends earnest lyricism, guitar, and the violin of Ryan Delahoussaye. While the inherent emotion in Blue October's music proves to be a solid guide wire for these later tracks, History for Sale too often seems diluted, or perhaps confused about its direction. Whether this is a result of its tumultuous shuffle between labels is unclear, but this persistent vagary prevents the album from truly succeeding.

tags: blue october, history for sale, 2003, flac,

Blue October - Foiled (2006)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 2006 Universal Records
AllMusic Review by Corey Apar
Three years since Blue October's last studio album, Foiled keeps true to the eclectic mix of passionately delivered post-grunge that has built the band a core of loyal fans over the years. And while it's this eclectic quality that allows Blue October to sneak successful singles to the top of modern rock charts, the somewhat challenging nature of their music is also what seems to keep them from really staying in the mainstream spotlight. After all, many of the same people who would eat up the soaring "Hate Me" -- which was gathering considerable momentum on radio before Foiled's release -- might not comprehend the rest of the album compared to their copies of the latest from Nickelback and Alter Bridge. They may enjoy the up and down nature -- from introspective brooding to straightforward rock -- that appears on "What If We Could," but the album's highlights come in the moments when the band doesn't rely on in-your-face tactics to get its point across. The often desolate and anguished nature of Justin Furstenfeld's lyrics complement his aching voice, which still comes off as a self-aware, less pious Ed Kowalczyk, along with Ryan Delahoussaye's affecting violin. As such, while "Hate Me" is the catchy, more formulaic song of the album, his distraught confrontation of the personal selfishness that apparently ruined a past love makes the song work beyond radio accessibility. Sheesh, every jilted girlfriend of a messed-up relationship should be so lucky as to have a remorseful guy outwardly admit sentiments like "Kicking shadows on the street for every mistake that I had made/And like a baby boy I never was a man." The dark "Drilled a Wire Through My Cheek" explores Furstenfeld's somewhat split personality with a crunchy rap/rock chorus that contrasts the funk guitar of calmer, introspective sections. On the lighter side, "Everlasting Friend" is a warmly executed, piano-laced delight that hints, along with the intimate "18th Floor Balcony," that the often broken frontman still holds hope close. Things get a little hairy, however, on the deviating "X Amount of Words." A New Order-ish techno beat leads the song's delivery into realms similar to -- no, seriously -- Ciara's "Goodies" with occasional background vocals appearing with a likeness to Linkin Park's Chester Bennington; but at least the sheer weirdness of the song makes it admittedly fun. Overall, Foiled is a multifaceted effort that delivers more than History for Sale and, thus, should delight fans with its arrival. Whether or not the mainstream is now ready for Blue October has yet to be determined.

tags: blue october, foiled, 2006, flac,