March 30, 2019

White Lion - Fight To Survive (1985) ☠

Country: Denmark/U.S.A.
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock, Glam Metal
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1985 Grand Slamm Records
Review by Paul Elliott for Louder Sound.com
Many bands have talked about their ‘difficult second album’, but for White Lion, the New York group fronted by Danish singer Mike Tramp, it was a case of the difficult first album.
Formed in 1983, White Lion seemed built for success, with blond pretty-boy Tramp resembling a junior David Lee Roth, and Vito Bratta a flashy guitarist heavily influenced by Eddie Van Halen. But the young band’s career was almost derailed when Elektra Records dropped them before the release of their debut – the prophetically titled Fight To Survive.
Eventually, their luck changed. The album was released in 1985 on US indie label Grand Slamm, and after some great reviews raised the band’s profile, they signed to a different major label, Atlantic, for their second album Pride, which would sell two million copies.
For connoisseurs of 80s hard rock, Fight To Survive is a lost classic. It features White Lion’s greatest song, Broken Heart – a glorious hard rock anthem, re-recorded in 1991 for their final album Mane Attraction. And there is an epic quality to the title track and The Road To Valhalla, the latter reminiscent of early Queen. Their hair was big, but deep down, White Lion were always a classic rock band.

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White Lion - Pride (1987)

Country: Denmark/U.S.A.
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1987 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Pride was White Lion's breakthrough album, thanks to the Top Ten hits "Wait" and the gentle ballad "When the Children Cry," but the rest of the album is also well-constructed pop-metal, with little of the over-the-top, testosterone-heavy posturing of their peers, as well as a low sleaze factor. In addition to the socially conscious "Children," there are positive-vibes anthems like "Don't Give Up" and "All Join Our Hands," and you wouldn't catch Bret Michaels or Axl Rose bowing on their knees before the "Lady of the Valley." Of course, nice-guy attitudes won't be as major a selling point for many hard rock listeners as Vito Bratta's showy Eddie Van Halen imitations. Although these border on obsessive at times, Bratta's interesting acoustic guitar work keeps the sound varied, and he displays a welcome penchant for melodicism. All in all, one of the more overlooked '80s pop-metal bands

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White Lion - Big Game (1989)

Country: Denmark/U.S.A.
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1989 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Even though none of the singles matched the chart performances of "Wait" or "When the Children Cry," and even though it runs a bit long, Big Game is still a worthy follow-up to Pride. There are two major MTV hits present, a Van Halen-ized version of Golden Earring's "Radar Love" and "Little Fighter," an ode to Greenpeace.

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White Lion - Mane Attraction (1991)

Country: Denmark/U.S.A.
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1991 Atlantic Records
Review by Matt Collar for Allmusic.com
White Lion's Mane Attraction was a commercial disappointment; none of the singles or videos garnered much radio or MTV airplay, and the album's sales dropped off rather quickly. The overall level of songcraft is not quite up to the band's two previous releases, although there are some decent songs here. The cream of the album is gathered on The Best of White Lion, making Mane Attraction necessary only for completists.

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The Alan Parsons Project - Ammonia Avenue (1984) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Rock
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1984 Artista Records
AllMusic Review by Mike DeGagne
One of the most interesting aspects about the Alan Parsons Project is the band's ability to forge a main theme with each of its songs, while at the same time sounding extremely sharp and polished. Much of this formula is used in Ammonia Avenue, only this time the songs rise above Parsons' overall message due to the sheer beauty of the lyrics partnered with the luster of the instruments. The album touches upon how the lines of communication between people are diminishing, and how we as a society grow more spiritually isolated and antisocial. But aside from the philosophical concepts prevalent in the lyrics, it is the music on this album that comes to the forefront. The enchanting saxophone of Mel Collins on "Don't Answer Me" adds to its lonely atmosphere, while the briskness of Eric Woolfson's wording throughout "Prime Time" makes it one of the Project's best singles. On "You Don't Believe," the seriousness of the lyrics works well with the song's energetic pace. The subtlety of the ballad comes to life on the elegant "Since the Last Goodbye," which focuses on a failed attempt at a relationship. With Ammonia Avenue, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole product, which can't be said for all of the Alan Parsons Project's albums. Vocalists Eric Woolfson, Chris Rainbow, Lenny Zakatek, and Colin Blunstone equally shine, placing their talents above and beyond the album's main idea.

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The Alan Parsons Project - Eve (1979)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Progressive Rock
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© 1979-1984 Artista Records
AllMusic Review by Mike DeGagne
For the most part, 1979's Eve is somewhat overlooked as being one of the Alan Parsons Project's finest work, when in fact it involves some of this group's most intricate songs. The album's concept deals with the female's overpowering effect on man. Each song touches on her ability to dissect the male ego, especially through sexual means, originating with Eve's tempting Adam in the beginning of time. Not only does this idea gain strength as the album progresses, but a musical battle of the sexes begins to arise through each song. The gorgeous "You Won't Be There" spotlights man's insecurity. Sung by Dave Townsend, its melodramatic feel sets a perfect tone. The classically enhanced "Winding Me Up" follows suit, based on a woman's ability to dominate her mate and opening up with sound of a wind-up doll being cranked. Other gems include the bitter but forceful "Damned If I Do" sung by Lenny Zakatek, and the dominating fury of "Lucifer," a powerful instrumental. Even the loutish "You Lie Down with Dogs" bears wit with its gender inclined mud-slinging. The female vocalists, Lesley Duncan and Clare Torry do a splendid job of representing the females point of view throughout the album. Not only does Eve solidify its main idea, but the songs are highly entertaining with catchy rhythms and intelligent lyrics. Musically, the tempo appealingly switches back and forth from slow to quick, as does the temperament of the album. Somehow, Eve is dismissed as one of this band's greatest efforts, when in fact it's one of their finest marriages of both concept and music. [The 2007 Sony BMG reissue included bonus tracks.]

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March 29, 2019

The Alan Parsons Project - The Turn of a Friendly Card (1980)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Progressive Rock
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© 1980-1985 Artista Records
AllMusic Review by Mike DeGagne
With two of the Alan Parsons Project's best songs, the lovely ballad "Time" and the wavy-sounding "Games People Play," The Turn of a Friendly Card remains one of this group's most enjoyable albums. Parsons' idea, the subject of the album's six tracks, centers around the age-old temptation of gambling and its stranglehold on the human psyche. On "Games People Play," vocalist Lenny Zakatek sounds compelling and focused, giving the song a seriousness that aids in realization of the album's concept. With "Time," it is Eric Woolfson who carries this luxurious-sounding ode to life's passing to a place above and beyond any of this band's other slower material. The breakdown of human willpower and our greedy tendencies are highlighted in the last track, entitled "The Turn of a Friendly Card," which is broken into five separate parts. "Snake Eyes," sung by Chris Rainbow, is the most compelling of the five pieces, and ties together the whole of the recording. As in every Parsons album, an instrumental is included, in this case an interesting number aptly titled "The Gold Bug." Like most of the band's instrumentals, its flow and rhythm simulate the overall tempo and concept of the album, acting as a welcome interlude. Although short, The Turn of a Friendly Card is to the point and doesn't let down when it comes to carrying out its idea.

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The Alan Parsons Project - Eye In The Sky (1982)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Progressive Rock
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© 1982-1983 Artista Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Eye in the Sky provided the Alan Parsons Project with their first Top Ten hit since 1977's I Robot, and it's hard not to feel that crossover success was one of the driving forces behind this album. The Project never shied away from hooks, whether it was on the tense white funk of "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You" or the gleaming pop hooks of "Games People Play," but Eye in the Sky was soft and smooth, so smooth that it was easy to ignore that the narrator of the title track was an ominous omniscient who spied either on his lover or his populace, depending on how deeply you wanted to delve into the concepts of this album. And, unlike I Robot or The Turn of a Friendly Card, it is possible to listen to Eye in the Sky and not dwell on the larger themes, since they're used as a foundation, not pushed to center stage. What does dominate is the lushness of sound, the sweetness of melody: this is a soft rock album through and through, one that's about melodic hooks and texture. In the case of the spacy opening salvo "Sirius," later heard on sports talk shows across America, or "Mammagamma," it was all texture, as these instrumentals set the trippy yet warm mood that the pop songs sustained. And the real difference with Eye in the Sky is that, with the exception of those instrumentals and the galloping suite "Silence and I," all the artiness was part of the idea of this album was pushed into the lyrics, so the album plays as soft pop album -- and a very, very good one at that. Perhaps nothing is quite as exquisite as the title song, yet "Children of the Moon" has a sprightly gait (not all that dissimilar from Kenny Loggins' "Heart to Heart"), "Psychobabble" has a bright propulsive edge (not all that dissimilar from 10cc), and "Gemini" is the project at its dreamiest. It all adds up to arguably the most consistent Alan Parsons Project album -- perhaps not in terms of concept, but in terms of music they never were as satisfying as they were here.

tags: the alan parsons project, eye in the sky, 1982, flac,

Roxette - Joyride (1991)

*This is the European pressing. Contains 15 tracks total.
Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1991 EMI Records
AllMusic Review by Bryan Buss
The beauty of Roxette is that the duo of Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson can do practically anything in terms of Top 40 music. From the quiet desperation of "Spending My Time" to the chanting carnival of "Joyride" to the folky "Church of Your Heart," they bring a worldliness to their lyrics and melodies that most pop A-listers don't even have the imagination to dream of. This, the follow-up to their breakthrough disc, Look Sharp!, sees through on what that collection hinted at, meaning most of the songs sound like they were designed to be hit singles, not just filler between two or three good cuts. "The Big L," "Soul Deep," and "Hotblooded" all follow in the successful vein Gessle and Fredriksson mined with "The Look," while "Fading Like a Flower (Every Time You Leave)," an insistent rock ballad, and the accordion-driven "Perfect Day" take things down a notch. The low-key "Watercolours in the Rain" and the whining "(Do You Get) Excited?" are the only cuts that keep the album from being a total success. For the most part, though, this is two pop artists at the top of their game.

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Roxette - Pearls of Passion (1986)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Pop, Pop Rock
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© 1986 EMI Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Damas
Roxette's debut album, issued in late 1986, is a portrait of a band in its formative stages. Both Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson had previously pursued solo careers in their native Sweden, and Pearls of Passion was the band's attempt at international stardom. It was preceded in the summer by a very '80s pop single called "Everlasting Love," which became the band's first bonafide hit...at least within Sweden. When the album was released later that year, things were much the same; while the album was a hit in Sweden, the rest of the world failed to pay much attention at all. And listening to the album, it's not that hard to tell why: nothing here is bad, but it lacks nearly all of the elements that made albums like Joyride and Look Sharp into massive hits just a few years later. Roxette's most intriguing qualities are that they are a pop band that can rock and that Gessle is a crack songwriter that almost never produces a bad tune. Here, however, there's a lot of dry material and a lot of undistinguishable dance-pop. Their trademark gritty guitars are completely absent, and what results is really only three great songs: "Soul Deep" (which was later re-recorded for Joyride, "Everlasting Love," and the magnificent "Secrets That She Keeps." The rest, however, is of significant interest only to serious fans. (A 1997 reissue of the album includes eight bonus tracks, new album packaging, and liner notes from Per Gessle himself.)

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March 28, 2019

Blaque - Blaque (1999) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1999 Trackmasters/Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Blaque are the teenage proteg├ęes of TLC's Left Eye Lopez, and their eponymous debut appropriately mimicks the attractive soulful hip-hop of TLC while staying true to the catchy fluff that sends teen pop to the top of the charts. However, it's not executed particularly stylishly. Take, for instance, the lead single "808," a slow jam about a heart that thumps like a Roland 808 drum machine; a clever concept, but the song never moves beyond concept, because the writing is hackneyed and the production is merely serviceable. Unfortunately, that's the problem with the album. Most of the material is simply predictable or dull, the performances are pleasant but not distinguished, and the production is acceptable but not alluring. At times, Blaque has the right song matched with the right production, but too often, their debut is nothing more than generic urban soul.

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March 27, 2019

Vertical Horizon - Go (2003) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2003 RCA Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
As vapid as nu-metal became once the pump backed up and started spewing its smelly backwash onto the stages of Ozfest, the fresh-scent hallways of what the industry calls "hot AC" might be just as empty. While the metal guys' latent high-school anger and crushed-velvet posturing is pretty hard to take, at least they get to turn up the amps and kick out the jock jams. In the beige world of hot adult contemporary, interchangeable white guys rock test-marketed riffs under a relatively distinguishable frontman's greeting-card haiku. Goofy nu-metallers may make music for chest-bumping in the arenas, but these guys are stuck writing soundtracks for Pottery Barn. In 1999, Vertical Horizon didn't have much with which to follow its breakthrough single, "Everything You Want." And yet the song's percolating groove provided enough sustenance for listeners led astray by Secret Samadhi, Live's pompous follow-up to Throwing Copper. Now, Vertical has returned with Go, an album that proves the band's lack of ideas wasn't a fluke, and reaffirms their status as third-tier imitators. "When You Cry" stands in for "Everything You Want" and introduces the album's catch phrase psychotherapy. "I can't wait until you let me down," Matthew Scannell sings over store-bought modern rock. "I'm Still Here" seems to cross the band's 1999 hit with Michelle Branch's "Everywhere," which was produced by Go helmer John Shanks. It's tiresome to keep making comparisons, but it's impossible not to when Vertical Horizon smothers whatever college rock identity it may have once had in layers of insipid radio filler. "Echo" is at once Go's hookiest and most opaque moment. As the familiar acoustic/electric, quiet-loud formula is applied yet again, Scannell indicts his band with another trite lyricism. "I don't want to be just another echo," he sings, evidently not realizing that he already is.

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Fuel - Puppet Strings (2014)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Grunge, Alternative Rock
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© 2014 Megaforce Records
AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney
Where Fuel's last album, 2007's Angels & Devils, found the band soldiering on in the absence of singer Brett Scallions, their fifth effort, Puppet Strings is a reversal of that idea, with Scallions re-forming the band with a whole new supporting cast. Despite not sharing any members with that previous lineup, however, Fuel seem to have kept on the same trajectory, exploring a more plaintive sound. With Scallions back at the helm, Puppet Strings feels like the album that their previous effort should have been, and with such a solid return, longtime fans should welcome the singer back like a returning hero.

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Roxette - Look Sharp! (1988)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Pop
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© 1988 EMI USA
AllMusic Review by Bryan Buss
Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson exploded onto the pop radar screen with Look Sharp!, which spawned four big hits: the bright, shiny "The Look," the punchy, hopeful "Dressed for Success," the A/C-leaning "Dangerous," and the bland, overproduced "Listen to Your Heart." The cuts that weren't released as singles aren't necessarily filler, but they also aren't as strong as many of the cuts that made up Roxette albums that followed, particularly Joyride and Tourism (Songs From Studios, Stages, Hotelrooms & Other Strange Places). The non-releases are nothing memorable, and they don't age well, "Paint" and "Dance Away" in particular being pretty average in terms of production and melody. Only "Chances" and "Shadow of a Doubt" show glimmers of the skills the duo would soon flourish. Gessle and Fredriksson became artists at crafting superb pop melodies and surrounding them with amazing production, so think of this album as basic training.

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Roxette - Tourism (1992)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Pop, Pop Rock
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© 1992 EMI Records USA
AllMusic Review by Bryan Buss
Mostly recorded live, much of Tourism, a worthy compilation of hits, misses, and new cuts, spotlights how strong an act they are even without the benefit of studio production. From the lead song, "How Do You Do!," a perfectly presented pop ditty, bright and sunny as summer, to a rejuvenated version of one of their biggest hits, "It Must Have Been Love" -- you have to hear 45,000 Chileans singing back-up to truly appreciate what was one of their least affecting ballads -- you come to appreciate what true pop craftsmanship is. A spare "Things Will Never Be the Same," on which the two share lead vocals with only the backing of an acoustic guitar, and the haunting, hopeful "Queen of Rain" are both so accomplished they should have been released as singles. As with their previous album, Joyride, there is very little filler on this disc; though "So Far Away" and "Here Comes the Weekend" are a bit routine, they are still well-crafted and well-presented ballads. Not quite a greatest hits package, this is your best bet as an introduction to Roxette.

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Changing Faces - All Day All Night (1997)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 1997 Big Beat/Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Leo Stanley
Changing Faces' second album, All Day, All Night, finds the group working a musical territory similar to their debut, namely smooth urban R&B with light hip-hop influences. Although the group's material is wildly uneven, the production is stylish and their vocals are strong, making the weak moments tolerable and the best songs quite attractive.

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The Cranberries - Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? (1992) ☠

*U.S. pressing. Contains 12 tracks total. A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.

Country: Ireland
Language: English
Genre: Alternative Rock, Folk Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1992-1993 Island Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
Title aside, what the Cranberries were doing wasn't that common at the time, at least in mainstream pop terms; grunge and G-funk had done their respective big splashes via Nirvana and Dr. Dre when Everybody came out first in the U.K. and then in America some months later. Lead guitarist Noel Hogan is in many ways the true center of the band at this point, co-writing all but three songs with O'Riordan and showing an amazing economy in his playing, and having longtime Smiths/Morrissey producer Stephen Street behind the boards meant that the right blend of projection and delicacy still held sway. One can tell he likes Johnny Marr and his ability to do the job just right: check out the quick strums and blasts on "Pretty" or the concluding part of the lovely "Waltzing Back." O'Riordan herself offers up a number of romantic ponderings and considerations lyrically (as well as playing perfectly fine acoustic guitar), and her undisputed vocal ability suits the material perfectly. The two best cuts were the deserved smashes: "Dreams," a brisk, charging number combining low-key tension and full-on rock, and the melancholic, string-swept break-up song "Linger." If Everybody is in the end a derivative pleasure -- and O'Riordan's vocal acrobatics would never again be so relatively calm in comparison -- a pleasure it remains nonetheless, the work of a young band creating a fine little synthesis.

tags: the cranberries, everybody else is doing it so why cant we, 1992, flac,

Blackgirl - Treat U Right (1994) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1994 Kaper/RCA Records
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
There are moments when the hip-hop rhythms kick in, but basically Blackgirl is an attempt to construct an African-American female trio in a '60s/'70s smooth soul style. Not surprisingly in the retro-phobic R&B market, that failed to gain them an audience for Treat U Right, despite their protestations that they were "'90s girls"; they aren't distinctive enough to make that matter much.

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Fuel - Something Like Human (2000) ☠

*Standard pressing. Contains 12 tracks total. A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Grunge
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2000 Epic/BK/550 Music
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Like several other successful rock bands of the post-grunge era, Fuel teeters between hard rock and heavy metal, as often as not within the same song. They are perfectly capable of adopting the lockstep thrash of Metallica-style metal, but they tend to vary it with comparatively melodic elements in a way that makes them acceptable to both headbangers and fans of less extreme rock. It certainly doesn't hurt that, every few songs, they throw in a ballad that begins with either an acoustic guitar or a lightly strummed electric (or both) and builds to a mid-tempo rocker. The primary example on their second album is first single "Hemorrhage (In My Hands)," which gives lead singer Brett Scallions the opportunity to intone "Don't fall away" in a tone of voice that recalls R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe singing "Fall on Me," and to emote about "love bleeding in my hands." Songwriter Carl Bell's lyrics, full of typical adolescent disillusionment over the vagaries of romance and the world in general, are sketchy, but his bitterness, even if shallow, seems freshly felt, notably on another of those power ballads, the sad "Innocent," and likely will connect with his listeners, after they've been pummeled by the rockers. Two albums in, Fuel still doesn't have much to say, but they are manipulating familiar ingredients in such a way that they may seem to be creating a new flavor, especially to young rock fans. (Something Like Human has multimedia content accessible by computer that includes a short film containing interview, studio, and performance footage as well as Fuel screen savers.)

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Jon B. - Pleasures U Like (2001)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 2001 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Ed Hogan
Pleasures U Like is Jon B.'s most consistent album to date. A cool, nighttime dance club vibe flows through the album. Not every song is a dance track; there are also a number of appealing ballads. The catchy mid-tempo "Don't Talk" glides along like Donell Jones' "'U Know What's Up." The chugging "Sof'n Sweet" says "Don't just stand there/Break it down." The bass-heavy ballad "Overjoyed" is a duet between the singer and Faith Evans. Babyface co-wrote the languid, muted-trumpet-sprinkled "Lonely Girl." Other highlights are the acoustic guitar-laced "Tell Me," as well as the deliciously languid slow jams "Calling on You" and "Inside."

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March 25, 2019

Taylor Dayne - Can't Fight Fate (1989)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop, Hi-NRG
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© 1989 Artista Records
AllMusic Review by Jose F. Promis
Arista was poised to take Taylor Dayne beyond the dance tracks and drum beats which established her as a force to be reckoned with on her smash debut Tell It to My Heart. Can't Fight Fate, her sophomore outing, featured much more straight-ahead rock & roll, lush production, and top-notch songwriters (including Diane Warren, who penned her biggest hit "Love Will Lead You Back"). The album proved an even bigger success than her debut, scoring two Top Ten hits, one number one hit, and one Top 20 hit. Unfortunately, however, the momentum was lost after this album, and Taylor Dayne never again reached the commercial stratosphere she scaled with this set. The album's dance songs, such as the lead-off Top Five hit "With Every Beat of My Heart," feature more organic instrumentation, although there are a few straight-ahead dance tracks, such as "Up All Night." The ballads are lush and dramatic, and one of them, "Love Will Lead You Back," soared all the way to number one. The real killers, however, are the rock songs, and Taylor delivers like a true, seasoned rock star. The set's third single, the Top Five hit "I'll Be Your Shelter" (also written by Warren), brings to mind Tina Turner, while other tracks, such as the unstoppable "You Can't Fight Fate" (again written by Warren) and "Ain't No Good," are just as delicious, and should have been hits. The hit procession unfortunately stopped after the groovy mid-tempo jam "Heart of Stone" failed to reach the Top Ten. Years after its release, this album stands the test of time, and can safely be classified as one of the more diverse and exciting dance/pop/rock albums of the late '80s/early '90s

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Marcy Playground - Marcy Playground (1997) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1997 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Marcy Playground's eponymous debut is a well-intentioned but somewhat muddled collection of straightforward post-grunge alt-pop. Songs like "Sex and Candy" capture the band at their best, turning out hard-edged, melodic pop songs with strong hooks and backbeats. Unfortunately, they don't quite have their craft perfected -- only a handful of the songs on the album are as memorable as the single. Still, those moments are what make Marcy Playground a promising, albeit imperfect, debut.

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