June 30, 2019

Roxy Music - Siren (1975)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Rock, Pop Rock
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© 1975-1987 E.G. Records, Ltd.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Abandoning the intoxicating blend of art rock and glam-pop that distinguished Stranded and Country Life, Roxy Music concentrate on Bryan Ferry's suave, charming crooner persona for the elegantly modern Siren. As the disco-fied opener "Love Is the Drug" makes clear, Roxy embrace dance and unabashed pop on Siren, weaving them into their sleek, arty sound. It does come at the expense of their artier inclinations, which is part of what distinguished Roxy, but the end result is captivating. Lacking the consistently amazing songs of its predecessor, Siren has a thematic consistency that works in its favor, and helps elevate its best songs -- "Sentimental Fool," "Both Ends Burning," "Just Another High" -- as well as the album itself into the realm of classics.

tags: roxy music, siren, 1975, flac,

Roxy Music - Flesh + Blood (1980)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1980-1987 E.G. Records, Ltd.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Abandoning the intoxicating blend of art rock and glam-pop that distinguished Stranded and Country Life, Roxy Music concentrate on Bryan Ferry's suave, charming crooner persona for the elegantly modern Siren. As the disco-fied opener "Love Is the Drug" makes clear, Roxy embrace dance and unabashed pop on Siren, weaving them into their sleek, arty sound. It does come at the expense of their artier inclinations, which is part of what distinguished Roxy, but the end result is captivating. Lacking the consistently amazing songs of its predecessor, Siren has a thematic consistency that works in its favor, and helps elevate its best songs -- "Sentimental Fool," "Both Ends Burning," "Just Another High" -- as well as the album itself into the realm of classics.

tags: roxy music, flesh and blood, flesh + blood, 1980, flac,

Morrissey - Ringleader of The Tormentors (2006)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 2006 Attack Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Few comebacks are ever as expertly executed as Morrissey's 2004 return to the stage, You Are the Quarry. It may have not sold gangbusters but it was certainly a hit, proving that he still had legions of devoted fans who would follow through hell and high water (or at the very least, seven years between albums), and earned his best reviews in years, elevating him to the status of well-respected elder statesman. It also gave him the opportunity to return to regular record-making, an opportunity that he seizes with Quarry's quickly delivered sequel, 2006's Ringleader of the Tormentors. Despite its near-genius title, perfect artwork, and pedigree -- instead of working with modern punk producer Jerry Finn as he did last time around, Moz has hired the legendary Tony Visconti, best known for his work with T. Rex and David Bowie, and even has the iconic Ennio Morricone provide orchestration for the epic "Dear God Please Help Me" -- Ringleader of the Tormentors is about as close to standard-issue Morrissey as it gets. There's always been a certain similarity to his work, particularly on his solo recordings, but each of his records either had a distinct sonic or aesthetic point of view or, at the very least, was graced by a handful of songs distinguished by a particularly sharp turn of phrase, whether it was lyrical or musical. It would seem that Ringleader has all the elements of being a cut above an average Morrissey LP, since not only are his collaborators storied themselves, but it's supported by a press campaign where the once celibate, often miserable singer has declared that he's abandoned L.A. for Rome, where he is living happily and living in love.
All of these elements seem to be the core ingredients for a classic Morrissey record, but there is little about Ringleader that's distinctive: whether it's the standard-issue single "You Have Killed Me" or the grinding seven-minute art rock centerpiece "Life Is a Pigsty," each tune has an all-too-clear antecedent elsewhere in Moz's catalog. Again, since Morrissey often works within a strict formula, this familiarity isn't necessarily bad, but the songs lack memorable moments. Not to say that there aren't highlights -- the dirgeful opener, "I Will See You in Far Off Places," is dreamily evocative, "In the Future When All Is Well" and "On the Streets I Ran" are nicely propulsive -- but there is nothing noteworthy or fresh here besides Morrissey's new tendency toward blunt words. He writes candidly about his personal life on this record in a way that he never has before -- he implicitly outs himself on "Dear God Please Help Me" -- and while this outburst of frank emotion may add some resonance to his declarations of love and rebirth, his words are clunky, lacking his trademark elegant wit ("I see the world, it makes me puke" and "there are explosive kegs between my legs" are a long way from "Why pamper life's complexity/When the leather runs smooth on the passenger seat?"). That is also true of the very sound of Ringleader of the Tormentors, which is just a shade too slick and sequenced, veering too close to comfort to the overly glossy '80s productions Morrissey routinely denounced during his days with the Smiths. These are subtle flaws, something that only the Morrissey diehard can dig out, but that's pretty much the only kind of fan Morrissey has in 2006. And since these flaws are not enough to derail the record, just enough to annoy, it's easy to enjoy Ringleader of the Tormentors as merely an everyday Morrissey record, but it's hard not to shake the suspicion that this album is the closest he's ever been to forgettable.

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Morrissey - Years of Refusal (2009)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 2009 Attack Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
All the heavy lifting of his comeback finished, Morrissey settles into a robust middle age on Years of Refusal, an evocation of his thick Your Arsenal sound that doesn't feel like a conscious re-creation -- rather, this just is who Moz is, an old brawler who refuses to hang up his gloves or settle a grudge. The sound remains the same but the songs don't quite: although this is also produced by Jerry Finn, this isn't the deliberate revival of You Are the Quarry, all sharp edges and metallic sheen, the better to rope in the young emo kids who came of age after Maladjusted, nor is it the gentle prog pretensions of the Tony Visconti-produced Ringleader of the Tormentors. Years of Refusal is comfortable in its settled nature, in its roaring guitars and swaying melodies, sometimes ratcheting up the aggression -- especially so on the tight, compacted opener, "Something Is Squeezing My Skull" -- but often just riding along, assured in its might and wit, never feeling the need to change for change's sake. Such conservatism has long been part of Morrissey's makeup -- when everybody pined for a synthesized future in the Thatcher/Reagan years, he sought refuge in the past -- and now that he has people paying attention again, he's fine with not changing the sound and writing songs about his happy middle-aged miserablism, a miserablism that increasingly feels like a device to fuel Morrissey's satire. Morrissey has never been reluctant to turn his wit upon himself but he relishes sending up his moping persona and advancing age here, resulting in some excellent quips and asides, along with some nicely honed ballads like "You Were Good in Your Time." Along with "That's How People Grow Up," where the perennially broken-hearted Moz acknowledges that there are worse things in life than never being someone's sweetie, this song is the best example of how Morrissey is feeling his years -- contrary to the implications within the album's title, he's not fretting about his age but throwing his arms around it, giving Years of Refusal a nicely comfortable feel that's welcome after the slightly strident overtones of its predecessors. Nothing here is surprising, of course, but Years of Refusal is a full-bodied, full-blooded album that also happens to be fully realized -- even if it is on a rather modest scale

tags: morrissey, years of refusal, 2009, flac,

June 29, 2019

Crowded House - Crowded House (1986)

*U.S. first pressing on CD. Contains 11 tracks total.
Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1986 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Split Enz needed to end, particularly since founding member Tim Finn found his little brother Neil's growth spurt uncomfortable, but also because Neil was no longer writing tunes that made sense within the context of a band that ran the gamut from art rock to eccentric new wave. Neil was now writing songs that were undeniably totems of popcraft, but infused with the spirit and introspection of a singer/songwriter. This formula would later become quite popular with artists from Matthew Sweet to the legions of basement auteurs in the pop underground, but this sensibility was relatively unheard of in the mid-'80s -- hence the birth of Crowded House. Neil retained Paul Hester from Enz, added Nick Seymour for the trio, and recorded one abandoned attempt at an album before joining with Mitchell Froom for the band's eponymous debut. At the time, Froom's clean production seemed refreshing, almost rootsy, compared to the synth pop dominating the mainstream and college scenes at the time, but in retrospect it seems a little overreaching and fussy, particularly in its addition of echo and layers of keyboards during particularly inappropriate moments. But Finn at his best overshadowed this fairly stilted production with his expert songcraft. As it happened, the record was blessed by good timing, and the majestic ballad "Don't Dream It's Over" became an international hit, while its follow-up, the breezy "Something So Strong," also turned into a hit. Both revealed different sides of Finn's talents, with the first being lyrical and the second being effervescent, but perhaps the truest testaments to his talents are "Mean to Me," "World Where You Live," and "Now We're Getting Somewhere," songs where the lyrics meld with the melody in a way that is distinctive, affecting, and personal. If the rest of the record doesn't reach those heights, it's still good, well-constructed pop, and these aforementioned highlights point the way to Temple of Low Men, where Crowded House (and particularly Finn) came into its own.

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Crowded House - Temple of Low Men (1988)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1988 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Chris Woodstra
Following the success of Crowded House's debut and the band's grueling promotion schedule, Neil Finn was clearly showing signs that he was no longer happy being New Zealand's zany ambassador to the U.S. While the material on Temple of Low Men demonstrates great leaps in quality over its predecessor, it is a darkly difficult album, especially for those expecting Crowded House, Pt. 2 -- in short, there are no immediately accessible singles. Instead, Finn digs into the depths of his emotional psyche with obsessive detail, crafting a set of intense, personal songs that range from the all-too-intimate look at infidelity of "Into Temptation" to the raucous exorcism of "Kill Eye." Through all of this introspective soul-searching, Finn reveals most of all his true mastery of melody.

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Crowded House - Woodface (1991)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1991 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Chris Woodstra
Where Crowded House's previous album, Temple of Low Men, showcased the often dark side of a man alone with his thoughts, Woodface represents the joy of reunion and the freedom of a collaborative effort -- more than half of the album was originally conceived as a Finn Brothers project, which was Tim and Neil's first crack at writing together. The songs are easily their finest to date, combining flawless melodies and the outstanding harmonies of the brothers' perfectly matched voices.

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Autumn - The Hating Tree (1997) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Gothic Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1997 Tess Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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Morrissey - Viva Hate (1988)

*U.S. pressing. Contains 13 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1988 Sire, Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Following the breakup of the Smiths, Morrissey needed to prove that he was a viable artist without Johnny Marr, and Viva Hate fulfilled that goal with grace. Working with producer Stephen Street and guitarist Vini Reilly (of the Durutti Column), Morrissey doesn't drastically depart from the sound of Strangeways, Here We Come, offering a selection of 12 jangling guitar pop sounds. One major concession is the presence of synthesizers -- which is ironic, considering the Smiths' adamant opposition to keyboards -- but neither the sound, nor Morrissey's wit, is diluted. And while the music is occasionally pedestrian, Morrissey compensates with a superb batch of lyrics, ranging from his conventional despair ("Little Man, What Now?," "I Don't Mind If You Forget Me") to the savage political tirade of "Margaret on a Guillotine." Nevertheless, the two masterstrokes on the album -- the gorgeous "Everyday Is Like Sunday" and the infectious "Suedehead" -- were previously singles, and both are on the compilation Bona Drag.

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Morrissey - Kill Uncle (1991)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1991 Sire, Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
With Kill Uncle, Morrissey descended into the ranks of self-parody, churning out a series of pleasant but tired alternative jangle pop songs that had neither melody nor much wit to distinguish them. Part of the problem lies with his choice of collaborators. Producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley don't provide the appropriately sympathetic backdrop for Morrissey's sly humor, while guitarist Mark E. Nevin is incapable of developing hooks. A few cuts, such as "(I'm) The End of the Family Line" and "There's a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends," stand out, but Kill Uncle is Morrissey's least distinguished record.

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Morrissey - Your Arsenal (1992) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1992 Sire, Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Morrissey bounced back from the lackluster Kill Uncle with the terrific Your Arsenal. A dynamic, invigorating fusion of glam rock and rockabilly, Your Arsenal rocks harder than any other record Morrissey ever made. Guitarist Alain Whyte's riffs swagger with a self-absorbed arrogance, and producer Mick Ronson gives the music a tough, stylish sheen -- it may be a break from Morrissey's jangle pop, but the music is sharper than at has been since the Smiths, and so is Morrissey's pen. Running through his trademark litany of emotional, social, and personal observations, Morrissey is viciously clever and occasionally moving. And the songs -- whether it's the rush of "You're Gonna Need Someone on Your Side," the menacing "We'll Let You Know," the spare rockabilly bop of "Certain People I Know," the gospel-tinged "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday," or "Tomorrow" -- are uniformly excellent, forming the core of Morrissey's finest solo record and his best work since The Queen Is Dead.

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Morrissey - Vauxhall & I (1993)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
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© 1993 Sire, Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
While it isn't a gutsy rock & roll record like Your Arsenal, Vauxhall and I is equally impressive. Filled with carefully constructed guitar pop gems, the album contains some of Morrissey's best material since the Smiths. Out of all of his solo albums, Vauxhall and I sounds the most like his former band, yet the textured, ringing guitar on this record is an extension of his past, not a replication of it. In fact, with songs like "Now My Heart Is Full" and "Hold on to Your Friends," Morrissey sounds more comfortable and peaceful than he ever has. And "The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get," "Speedway," and "Spring-Heeled Jim" prove that he hasn't lost his vicious wit.

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Morrissey - Southpaw Grammar (1995) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1995 Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
If Vauxhall and I represented a more mature Morrissey, Southpaw Grammar superficially presents a more rough and tumble version of the singer. As his previous single, "Boxers," indicated, Morrissey's fascination with boxing and violence has reached full fruition. The music appropriately reflects this, with growling, distorted guitars and martial rhythms. But Southpaw Grammar doesn't rock as hard or with as much style as the rockabilly-inflected Your Arsenal -- instead, it's his art rock album, complete with strings, drum solos, and two ten-minute songs. Of these, the winding, menacing "The Teachers Are Afraid of the Pupils" works the best, and it represents a significant change in Morrissey's outlook; instead of the children being outsiders, "the teachers" are. Throughout Southpaw Grammar, the privileged are oppressed by their fortunes, while working-class toughs are celebrated for their violence. However, there is no cohesive glue to the record. "The Teachers" uses its 11 minutes effectively, but "Southpaw" is merely ponderous. "Reader Meet Author" and "Dangenham Dave" are classic three-minute pop songs, but "Do Your Best and Don't Worry" is strictly by the books. Nevertheless, there is plenty of enjoyable music on the record, even if the concept is flawed.

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Morrissey - Maladjusted (1997)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock, Indie Pop
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© 1997 Mercury Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
In theory, Maladjusted should have been a readjustment to standard indie rock territory for Morrissey after the prog rock detour of Southpaw Grammar, but Morrissey isn't that simple. From the opening title track, with its menacing, swirling paranoia, it's clear that Maladjusted isn't a simple return to form. That isn't to say that the album is devoid of the jangly, maudlin pop songs that are Morrissey's trademark -- in fact, the lead single, "Alma Matters," is a quietly catchy tune that ranks as vintage Morrissey. Nevertheless, it's a little misleading, because Maladjusted isn't strictly by the book. Morrissey has incorporated his newfound fascination with prog rock into his trademark sound much better than he did on Southpaw Grammar, as the lumbering beat of "Papa Jack" and sawing strings of "Ambitious Outsiders" illustrate, but that fascination signals how insular Morrissey's world has become. Things are rarely more insular -- or weirder -- than "Sorrow Will Come in the End," a spoken word, neo-classical rant about his loss to Mike Joyce in a Smiths royalty suit (the song was pulled from the British version of the album, due to legal reasons), but "Roy's Keen," an ode to a keen window cleaner, isn't far behind. The remainder of the album -- particularly the lovely "Wide to Receive," "He Cried," and "Trouble Loves Me" -- may be similarly self-obsessed, yet the music is warm and welcoming, thanks to strong craftsmanship and fine performances. They're charming songs, but they're subtle charms, offering the kind of pleasures only longtime Morrissey followers will find irresistible.

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June 28, 2019

Trip Shakespeare - Across The Universe (1990) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1990 A&M Records
AllMusic Review by John Dougan
There are those enamored of Trip Shakespeare's independent-label work, but I'd recommend starting here. This is their strongest collection of tunes and tightest, most assertive playing.

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Trip Shakespeare - Lulu (1991)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
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© 1991 A&M Records
AllMusic Review by Gregory McIntosh
Trip Shakespeare unfortunately went unnoticed in their time and more unfortunately have remained in obscurity, but they were lucky enough to record in a time when major labels took greater chances with music and would more often indulge ambitious projects. Lulu is the group's defining set, a result of inspired and talented musicians with an expense account to afford their aspirations and enough sense to exploit it appropriately. Why then did this record go through the ringer almost completely unnoticed and why did the reviews the album received tend to be overly critical? Part of the answer has to do with the timing of its release. 1991 was the great embrasure of the grunge movement when Nirvana's Nevermind set the decade-long trend for the popular music charts. The release of a melodically complex and romantic pop masterpiece with lush vocals was entertained by neither the critics nor the masses, and no doubt A&M had lost much of the majesty they found in Trip Shakespeare when they were signed two years previous, which is a shame since Shakespeare's leader, Matt Wilson, was at the height of his poetic optimism and the melodic hooks he wrote with his brother Dan Wilson are complex, plentiful, and on par with the classics of pop music's innovation. John Munson's bass playing is superb throughout, most notably in "Today You Move," where his delicious and seductive work is given the spotlight of a tender solo complete with a second harmony bass track. Whether percussive, sweet, subtle, or upfront, Munson's interplay with drummer Elaine Harris is a potent example of a confident and capable rhythm section propelled by Harris' unique and bouncy drumming, the result of her abnormal technique of standing behind the drum kit and playing the bass drum with sticks instead of a foot pedal. She keeps rooted the endearing, snakey tendrils of music Matt and Dan Wilson generously dish out, but in fact, every player is an astute melodic force here and all have a keen sense of dynamic, giving this record, as absolutely full of ornamentation as it is, quite a bit of breathing space in the necessary parts. While the vocal prowess of the group had come across splendidly on Across the Universe, here the band is unreal. Obviously proud of their vocal abilities, the album opens with an a cappella introduction, all of 17 seconds in length, equal to anything the Beach Boys pulled off, if not more impressive on account of the passionate deliverance. It's a bold introduction; opening with the line "None of the regular rules were true," but Trip Shakespeare knew they had an amazing product and they were ready to show it to the world, and this is only the introduction -- the harmonies abound throughout the entire album with stunning proficiency. It is a rare instance in the music industry, major label or otherwise, to hear an album created by a group so obviously enchanted and inspired by each other, an album so loved and so toiled over that its contents continue to give indefinitely, an album so steeped in worshiping beauty that no amount of criticism -- positive or negative -- can mangle or tarnish its crystalline brilliance. A short while after Lulu came out, Trip Shakespeare were dropped by A&M and subsequently broke up, no doubt a declaration that they had done all they could to transcend the "regular rules."

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June 27, 2019

Roxy Music - Roxy Music (1972) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Art Rock, Progressive Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1972-1984 EG/Polydor Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Falling halfway between musical primitivism and art rock ambition, Roxy Music's eponymous debut remains a startling redefinition of rock's boundaries. Simultaneously embracing kitschy glamour and avant-pop, Roxy Music shimmers with seductive style and pulsates with disturbing synthetic textures. Although no musician demonstrates much technical skill at this point, they are driven by boundless imagination -- Brian Eno's synthesized "treatments" exploit electronic instruments as electronics, instead of trying to shoehorn them into conventional acoustic patterns. Similarly, Bryan Ferry finds that his vampiric croon is at its most effective when it twists conventional melodies, Phil Manzanera's guitar is terse and unpredictable, while Andy Mackay's saxophone subverts rock & roll clichés by alternating R&B honking with atonal flourishes. But what makes Roxy Music such a confident, astonishing debut is how these primitive avant-garde tendencies are married to full-fledged songs, whether it's the free-form, structure-bending "Re-Make/Re-Model" or the sleek glam of "Virginia Plain," the debut single added to later editions of the album. That was the trick that elevated Roxy Music from an art school project to the most adventurous rock band of the early '70s.

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Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure (1973)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Art Rock
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© 1973-1984 EG Records Ltd.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
On Roxy Music's debut, the tensions between Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry propelled their music to great, unexpected heights, and for most of the group's second album, For Your Pleasure, the band equals, if not surpasses, those expectations. However, there are a handful of moments where those tensions become unbearable, as when Eno wants to move toward texture and Ferry wants to stay in more conventional rock territory; the nine-minute "The Bogus Man" captures such creative tensions perfectly, and it's easy to see why Eno left the group after the album was completed. Still, those differences result in yet another extraordinary record from Roxy Music, one that demonstrates even more clearly than the debut how avant-garde ideas can flourish in a pop setting. This is especially evident in the driving singles "Do the Strand" and "Editions of You," which pulsate with raw energy and jarring melodic structures. Roxy also illuminate the slower numbers, such as the eerie "In Every Dream Home a Heartache," with atonal, shimmering synthesizers, textures that were unexpected and innovative at the time of its release. Similarly, all of For Your Pleasure walks the tightrope between the experimental and the accessible, creating a new vocabulary for rock bands, and one that was exploited heavily in the ensuing decade.

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Roxy Music - Stranded (1973)

*U.K. first pressing on C.D. Contains 8 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Art Rock, Pop Rock
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© 1973-1989 EC Records Ltd., London
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Without Brian Eno, Roxy Music immediately became less experimental, yet they remained adventurous, as Stranded illustrates. Under the direction of Bryan Ferry, Roxy moved toward relatively straightforward territory, adding greater layers of piano and heavy guitars. Even without the washes of Eno's synthesizers, Roxy's music remains unsettling on occasion, yet in this new incarnation, they favor more measured material, whether it's the reflective "A Song for Europe" or the shifting textures of "Psalm." Even the rockers, such as the surging "Street Life" and the segmented "Mother of Pearl," are distinguished by subtle songwriting that emphasizes both Ferry's tortured glamour and Roxy's increasingly impressive grasp of sonic detail.

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Roxy Music - Avalon (1982)

*U.K. second pressing on CD. Contain 10 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock, Pop
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© 1982-1987 EG Records, Ltd., London
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Flesh + Blood suggested that Roxy Music were at the end of the line, but they regrouped and recorded the lovely Avalon, one of their finest albums. Certainly, the lush, elegant soundscapes of Avalon are far removed from the edgy avant-pop of their early records, yet it represents another landmark in their career. With its stylish, romantic washes of synthesizers and Bryan Ferry's elegant, seductive croon, Avalon simultaneously functioned as sophisticated make-out music for yuppies and as the maturation of synth pop. Ferry was never this romantic or seductive, either with Roxy or as a solo artist, and Avalon shimmers with elegance in both its music and its lyrics. "More Than This," "Take a Chance with Me," "While My Heart Is Still Beating," and the title track are immaculately crafted and subtle songs, where the shifting synthesizers and murmured vocals gradually reveal the melodies. It's a rich, textured album and a graceful way to end the band's career.

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New Kingdom - Heavy Load (1993)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1993 Gee Street
AllMusic Review by Bret Love
One of the dozens of hip-hop groups signed in the early-'90s alt-rap feeding frenzy, this little-known duo is probably most notable for its seminal work with producer Scott Harding (aka Scotty Hard), who went on to work with artists like the Gravediggaz and Prince Paul. The first two tracks start their debut album off rather clumsily, with an in-your-face Beastie Boys-meets-Onyx vibe that falls a little flat. But by the time "Frontman" rolls around, with its relaxed Cypress Hill-influenced stoner vibe, they seem to have settled into a more comfortable groove. Songs like "Mad Mad World" and "Mighty Maverick" work especially well, with Sebastien's trippy spoken-word poetry matching the psychedelic musical backgrounds to create the drugged-out feel the band seems to strive for. And the freaky, funky effects of "Are You Alive" and the extremely goofy "Calico Cats" are so damn effective, you wonder why they bothered with the grating shtick of some of the earlier songs in the first place. Ultimately, Heavy Load shows an awful lot of promise, but all too often New Kingdom fails to deliver.

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Organized Rhyme - Huh? Stiffenin Against The Wall (1992)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1992 A&M Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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Curiosity Killed The Cat - Keep Your Distance (1987)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop
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© 1987 Mercury/Phonogram Records
AllMusic Review by Ted Mills
Mildly entertaining blue-eyed pop funk from Britain, Curiosity Killed the Cat had hits with "Misfit," "Free," and "Down to Earth," all represented here (the latter's video being one of the last things Andy Warhol directed). Vocalist Ben Volpeliere-Pierrot has as limited a range and tone as his contemporary chart-mate Rick Astley, but doesn't push himself too far and is at least backed up by a flesh 'n' blood band, who (sometimes) come alive on such tracks as "Ordinary Day" and "Misfit." But the lyrics are bland as pudding, the music often plods along, and with a host of different producers divvying up the tracks, the album never really coheres. What was it that Warhol said again about 15 minutes?

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