September 30, 2021

Gauge The Mental Murderah - Cranium (12'' Single) (1996)

*12 inch single consisting of 6 tracks. 
Photos of the record are included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: MR0022
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© 1996 Maestro Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

tags: gauge the mental murderah, gauge, cranium, 12 inch single, 1996, flac,

Ryan Adams - Demolition (2002)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Country
Label Number: 08817033-2
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© 2002 Lost Highway
Demolition Review by Mark Deming
On more than one occasion, Ryan Adams has played solo acoustic gigs that consisted almost entirely of songs he wrote the afternoon of the show, and after his 2001 album, Gold, finally gave him an audience outside the small but rabidly enthusiastic alt-country scene, the very prolific Adams seemed to waste no time laying down as many songs as he possibly could. If one believes what one reads in New Musical Express, Adams cut about four albums' worth of material during sessions with various musicians and producers within the space of a year (not even counting the much talked about but to date unheard four-track recordings of blues versions of all the songs from the Strokes' debut disc, Is This It). Sensibly enough, Adams and his record company decided that releasing such a huge flood of material wasn't in the best interest of either artist or label, and instead Adams cherry-picked these sessions into a 13-track collection, Demolition. Appropriately enough, Demolition sounds less like "the third Ryan Adams album" than a collection of stray tunes -- some of which are very good, especially the lazy summer vibe of "Tennessee Sucks," the up-tempo acoustic twang of "Chin Up, Cheer Up," the winsome "Cry on Demand," and the heading-off-the-rails rocker "Starting to Hurt." But more than a few of the other songs on the album sound like rough drafts rather than completed works, and Demolition seems to lack a strong thematic or structural center. In short, Demolition sounds like a bunch of demos, which of course is just what it is, and while it preserves a few strong tunes and offers an insight into Adams' creative process, it also makes clear that even the rising wunderkind of Americana can benefit from a bit of judicious editing and polishing.

tags: ryan adams, demolition, 2002, flac,

Ryan Adams - Rock N Roll (2003)


*European pressing. 
Contains 1 bonus track. 
15 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: 986 132-4
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© 2003 Lost Highway
Rock N Roll Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Ryan Adams is the male Courtney Love -- a hard-working hustler with impeccable taste who talks such a good game that it deliberately overshadows his music. Of course, Adams differs from Courtney in many crucial ways. For one, he's a workaholic, recording and releasing more albums than he should, which also points out that, unlike Love, he doesn't need a collaborator to help shove his songs over the goal. But the crucial similarity is that they're both students of rock history, conscious of what accounts for good taste within rock crit land, from 1973 to 2003. They don't just know the canon -- they want to be part of the canon, to the extent that it seems that they want to be the artist that all rock history has inextricably pointed to (or to paraphrase the far more eloquent Morrissey, they want to be the end of the family line). Which is why it rankles Adams when he's pigeonholed as an alt-country singer/songwriter (he's right -- he hasn't been alt-country since he left Whiskeytown) when Jack White steals his spotlight by doing a related, but not similar, spin on roots rock: he's so clearly the Important Artist of the Decade that he needs to pull the spotlight back on himself whenever it's shining somewhere else.

With Gold in the fall of 2001, the wind was at his back -- his enfant terrible schtick was still relatively fresh, "New York, New York" became a post-9/11 anthem, and the music was eclectic enough to break him out of the alt-country ghetto, even as it was rootsy enough to still play to that core audience. By 2003, things were getting a little dicey for Adams, partially because he wouldn't shut up -- either to the press or on his online blog; he said many things to both, the most noteworthy being a bizarre pseudo-feud with the White Stripes, where he yo-yoed between calling Jack White a genius and kid's stuff -- and partially because he had diarrhea of the recording studio, cutting more stuff than Lost Highway could possibly release, particularly because he was moving further away from the label's core alt-country audience. They released the demos collection Demolition in 2002 but balked at Love Is Hell, his mope-rock tribute recorded with Smiths producer John Porter, but after some discussion, it was decided that Love Is Hell would surface as a pair of EPs, while Lost Highway would get a big, shiny new rock & roll record.

Wearing his intentions on his sleeve in a nearly cynical manner, Adams called the album Rock N Roll, though in a fit of rebellious piss and vinegar, the artwork has it displayed as a mirror image: Llor n Kcor, which isn't quite Efil4zaggin, but the spirit is nonetheless appreciated. The title is so simple it belies the fact that this is a bit of a concept album on Adams' part, a conscious attempt to better the Strokes and the White Stripes at their own game while he performs a similar synthesis of glam rock and Paul Westerberg while dabbling in the new new wave of new wave spearheaded by Interpol to prove that he can do the arty thing too (though that proof is reserved for the Jeff Buckley-aping Love Is Hell). It's not just that the sound echoes bands from the past and future; the titles consciously reference other songs: "Wish You Were Here," "So Alive," "Rock N Roll," and "Boys" borrow titles from Pink Floyd, Love and Rockets, Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles/Shirelles, respectively; "The Drugs Not Working" reworks the Verve's "The Drugs Don't Work," "She's Lost Total Control" is a play on Joy Division's "She's Lost Control," "1974" harks back to the Stooges' "1969" and "1970," "This Is It" is an answer song to the Strokes' "Is This It," and "Note to Self: Don't Die" apes Norm MacDonald's catch phrase. These songs don't necessarily sound like the songs they reference, but there sure are a lot of deliberate allusions to other styles and bands: tunes that sound a bit like the Strokes, songs that sound like Westerberg, tracks patterned after Interpol but sounding like U2, and the glam songs that are meant to sound like T. Rex or the New York Dolls but come out as Stone Temple Pilots.

While some of these songs suggest that the record was written in a hurry -- instead of lyrics, "Wish You Were Here" sounds like a transcript of Tourette's syndrome -- many songs exhibit considerable studiocraft and songcraft, a reflection of Adams' exceptional taste and skill as a musician. But while some of these songs are undeniably catchy, they're essentially reactionary material -- the sound of somebody responding to his influences and peers, sometimes in an alluring way, but not quite carving out a personal, idiosyncratic vision, the way Jack White does in the White Stripes (it's not even close to how Ween genre-hops from speed metal to Jimmy Buffett yet makes it all sound like Ween, either). That said, it's not a bad listen at all, particularly when Adams gets caught up in the sound of it all and sounds consumed by passion instead of mimicking it -- for reference's sake: "This Is It," "1974," "Luminol," and "Burning Photographs" -- but the artifice outweighs the substance throughout Rock N Roll. Which suggests that the mirror image in the title may be more than a clever typographic trick -- it may be an admission that the album delivers the illusion of rock & roll instead of the real thing.

tags: ryan adams, rock n roll, 2003, flac,

Elvis Costello - Brutal Youth (1994)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: 9 45535-2
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© 1994 Warner Bros. Records
Brutal Youth Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Perhaps realizing that The Juliet Letters was one step too far, especially after the willfully eclectic pair of Spike and Mighty Like a Rose, Elvis Costello set out to make a straight-ahead rock & roll record with Brutal Youth, reuniting with the Attractions (though Bruce Thomas appears on only five tracks) and Nick Lowe (who plays bass on most of the rest). Unfortunately, all this nostalgia and good intentions are cancelled by the retention of producer Mitchell Froom, whose junkyard, hazily cerebral productions stand in direct contrast to the Attractions' best work. Likely, Froom's self-conscious production appealed to Costello, since it makes Brutal Youth look less like a retreat, but it severely undercuts the effectiveness of the music, since it lacks guts, no matter how smugly secure it is in its tempered "experimentation." Costello certainly had the raw elements for a dynamic little record here -- the band, when they can be heard, sound good, and many songs (highlighted by "Pony St.," "Kinder Murder," "13 Steps Lead Down," "You Tripped at Every Step," and "20% Amnesia") are fresh, effective evocations of his classic work -- but it needed to be punchier to succeed. He needed to be produced by Lowe, instead of just having him sit in on bass.

tags: elvis costello, brutal youth, 1994, flac,

Wellwater Conspiracy - The Scroll & Its Combinations (2001)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: TVT 3370-2
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© 2001 TVT Records
The Scroll and Its Combinations Review by Steve Kurutz
With clever songwriting, a willingness to experiment, and an increased production quality in the studio, the Wellwater Conspiracy have slowly outgrown their side-project beginnings to become a great band in their own right. Co-founder Matt Cameron still gives much of his time and energy to playing drums for Pearl Jam, so it's unlikely that the Conspiracy will ever break big, but that's all the better. The group has the feeling of a cult band, a gift rewarded to the fan willing to put the time and energy into searching it out, and the rewards are plenty on the third Wellwater Conspiracy release (the band's first for TVT). While past albums contained some gems, they often felt like records that were written and recorded over the course of a few weekends off. Scroll, on the other hand, has the sound of a fully realized album, with Cameron and cohort John McBain taking their love for '60s garage and psychedelia to a new level. "I Got Nightmares" is pure early Who, and "Tick Tock 3 O'Clock" is the best Roky Erickson song never penned. The record also has some heavyweight guests. Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil adds a beautiful guitar part to "C, Myself and Eye," while Eddie Vedder (going under the moniker Wes C. Addle) lends his familiar voice to the jaunty, Byrds-ish "Felicity's Surprise." The production on Scroll is much cleaner, the songwriting is tighter, and the group only sounds better and stronger for it.

tags: wellwater conspiracy, the scroll and its combinations, 2001, flac,

Wellwater Conspiracy - Wellwater Conspiracy (2003)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: MEGA1991

© 2003 Megaforce/Transdreamer Records
The 1960s revisionism continues on Wellwater Conspiracy's self-titled effort, its fourth LP overall and first for Mega Force. Matt Cameron (drums/vocals/guitars) and John McBain (guitar/bass/keyboards) (joined on keyboards here and there by the Walkabouts' Glenn Slater) have made a record that might be more cohesive than past WWC output, but only because it never drifts too far from pretty melodies. What's really obvious here is the comfort inside these songs. If your band wears its psychedelic and pop influences like flowers in its hair, is it pretentious to cover Thunderclap Newman's era-signifying "Something in the Air"? Maybe, if Cameron and McBain didn't bookend their version with two of Wellwater's most freewheeling instrumental departures. The robotic "Rebirth" suggests Trans Am's backroom electronica with its sputtering, chintzy-cool keyboards and live, grooving drums, while the improvisational "Sullen Glacier" features lurching time signatures and fire-breathing stoner metal guitars. The bandmembers are comfortable enough with one another (and confident enough in their skill) to throw switch-ups like these into the mix. Even when the band's inner flower child is blatantly at the controls (the spot-on Byrds guitars of "Wimple Witch"; Cameron's vintage vocal on the Who-ish, awesomely named "Dragonwyck"), Wellwater Conspiracy steers its peace train down dark indie rock and modernist, experimental paths. The floating "Sea Miner" could be a lost bit of atmosphere from Love, but its unsettling stylistic cloudbursts are akin to the abstract rock impressionism of outfits like the Sea and Cake. This free-form toadstool hopping is indicative of a band unconcerned with financial return on its intellectual investment. Tailoring the sound is out; squashing stuff together is in. Plenty of artists use this approach; too often, it results in a studio-tweaked mess only a producer could love. By keeping things loose and organic, yet ambitious and consistently accessible, Wellwater Conspiracy lets the listener savor some of its referential improvisation.

tags: wellwater conspiracy, wellwater conspiracy album, 2003, flac,

Wellwater Conspiracy - Declaration of Conformity (1997)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: 3G-17
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© 1997 Third Gear Records
Declaration of Conformity Review by Greg Prato
The first recording issued from ex-Soundgarden members after their April '97 breakup is a bit of a surprise. Shedding their ex-band's sludge-metal sound, Matt Cameron (drums) and Ben Shepherd (vocals) explore 60's garage rock sounds (the Who, the Ventures, etc.), and add some hallucinogenic elements as well (late Beatles, Pink Floyd w/ Syd Barrett). Ex-Monster Magnet member John Paul McBain rounds out the group (on guitar & bass), and proves to be well-versed in achieving interesting, classic sounds from inexpensive home-recording equipment. Declaration of Conformity is Ben Shepherd's debut as lead vocalist of a group (he played bass in Soundgarden), and his high-pitched voice fits this unusual retro music perfectly. "Sandy," "Far Side of Your Moon," and "Nati Bati Yi" explore surf music, while "Enebrio" and "Space Travel In A Blink of An Eye" are influenced by early Pink Floyd (they even cover Syd Barrett's "Lucy Leave" on the album). Other highlights include the spooky "Green Undertow," and the strutting "Trowerchord." Fans of the Wellwater Conspiracy should also check out their precursor group, Hater, which released an album on A&M back in 1993 (and featured two other members).

tags: wellwater conspiracy, declaration of conformity, 1997, flac,

Bo$$ - Born Gangstaz (1993)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
Label Number: OK 52903
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© 1993 DJ West/Chaos/Columbia Records
Born Gangstaz Review by Andy Kellman
Just as fantastical and less forced than plenty of other gangsta rap records released in 1992, Boss' Born Gangstaz is a remarkable album that has gone underappreciated in the hip-hop world. Abetted by a laundry list of reputable producers -- Jam Master Jay, T Ray, MC Serch, Def Jef, AMG, Erick Sermon -- MC Lichelle Laws and DJ Irene Moore shrug at a cruel world, claim to not care, drink like fishes, smoke like Cypress Hill, live like thieves, and accord the opposite sex no respect whatsoever. In fact, no one and no thing is given any degree of respect, and it's clear that they've got a death wish. All of this would be met with a shrug if Laws had less-than-remarkable vocal and lyrical skills, but she's just as adept at painting vivid scenarios while riding the rhythms as any of her producers. She doesn't simply flip the gender roles of the average gangsta record; "tricks" expecting to get some end up getting some in the form of bullets. Her delivery consistently sounds collected but set to blast, and the productions almost always complement her detached, matter-of-fact viewpoint. Too bad the answering-machine messages left by Laws' parents soften the blunt impact of this cold, cold record.

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tags: boss, born gangstaz, 1993, flac,

South Central Cartel - 'N Gatz We Truss (1994)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
Label Number: OK 57294
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© 1994 GWK/DJ West/RAL/Chaos/Columbia Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

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tags: south central cartel, n gatz we truss, in gats we trust, 1994, flac,

South Central Cartel - All Day Everyday (1997)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
Label Number: 314 531 159-2
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© 1997 Def Jam Records
All Day Everyday Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
South Central Cartel's much-delayed third album All Day Everyday may recycle gangsta cliches, but it does so with so much skill that it may be hard to argue the point. Certainly, there are the standard lyrical themes of guns, sex and crime, but the Cartel can fashion these warhorses into killer pieces of G-funk. Just as often, however, they wallow in both lyrical and musical cliches, but there are enough instances where they break free from their straitjacket to make All Day Everyday worthwhile for gangsta diehards.

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tags: south central cartel, all day everyday, 1997, flac,

Limbonic Art - Moon In The Scorpio (1996) ☠

Country: Norway
Language: English
Genre: Black Metal
Style: Symphonic Black Metal
Label Number: ECLIPSE 005
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1996 Nocturnal Art Productions
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

tags: limbonic art, moon in the scorpio, 1996, flac,

Ryan Adams - Gold (2001)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Country
Label Number: 088 170 256-2
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© 2001 Lost Highway
Gold Review by Mark Deming
One would think that being Ryan Adams would be a pretty good deal at the time of this album's release; he had a major-label deal, critics were in love with him, he got to date Winona Ryder and Alanis Morissette, Elton John went around telling everyone he was a genius, and his record company gave him carte blanche to do whatever he wanted. But to listen to Gold, Adams' first solo album for his big-league sponsors at Lost Highway, one senses that there are about a dozen other musicians Adams would love to be, and nearly all of them were at their peak in the early to mid-'70s. Adams' final album with Whiskeytown, Pneumonia, made it clear that he was moving beyond the scruffy alt-country of his early work, and Gold documents his current fascination with '70s rock. Half the fun of the album is playing "Spot the Influence": "Answering Bell" is a dead ringer for Van Morrison (with fellow Morrison enthusiast Adam Duritz on backing vocals), "Tina Toledo's Street Walkin' Blues" is obviously modeled on the Rolling Stones, "Harder Now That It's Over" sounds like Harvest-period Neil Young, "New York, New York" resembles Stephen Stills in his livelier moments (Stephen's son, Chris Stills, plays on the album), and "Rescue Blues" and "La Cienega Just Smiled" suggest the influence of Adams' pal Elton John. Of course, everyone has their influences, and Adams seems determined to make the most of them on Gold; it's a far more ambitious album than his solo debut, Heartbreaker. The performances are polished, Ethan Johns' production is at once elegant and admirably restrained, Adams is in strong voice throughout, and several of the songs are superb, especially the swaggering but lovelorn "New York, New York," the spare and lovely "When the Stars Go Blue," and the moody closer, "Goodnight, Hollywood Blvd." But while Gold sounds like a major step forward for Adams in terms of technique, it lacks the heart and soul of Heartbreaker or Pneumonia; the album seems to reflect craft rather than passion, and while it's often splendid craft, the fire that made Whiskeytown's best work so special isn't evident much of the time. Gold sounds like an album that could win Ryan Adams a lot of new fans (especially with listeners whose record collections go back a ways), but longtime fans may be a bit put off by the album's richly crafted surfaces and emotionally hollow core.

tags: ryan adams, gold, 2001, flac,

Elvis Costello & The Attractions - All This Useless Beauty (1996)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: 9 46198-2
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© 1996 Warner Bros. Records
All This Useless Beauty Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Following his second covers album, Kojak Variety, Elvis Costello set out to assemble a collection of songs he had written for other artists but never recorded himself -- sort of a reverse covers album. As it turned out, that idea was only used as a launching pad -- the resulting album, All This Useless Beauty, is a mixture of nine old and three new songs. Given its origins, it's surprising that the record holds together as well as it does. The main strength of All This Useless Beauty is the quality of the individual songs -- each song can stand on its own as an individual entity, as the music is as sharp as the lyrics. Although the music is certainly eclectic, it's accessible, which wasn't the case with Mighty Like a Rose. Furthermore, the production is more textured and punchier than Mitchell Froom's botched job on Brutal Youth. All This Useless Beauty doesn't quite add up to a major statement, but the simple pleasures it offers makes it one of the more rewarding records of the latter part of Costello's career.

tags: elvis costello and the attractions, all this useless beauty, 1996, flac,

Elvis Costello - When I Was Cruel (2002) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: 314 586 775-2
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© 2002 Island Records
When I Was Cruel Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Given the flurry of activity from Elvis Costello at the turn of the century -- concerts, guest appearances, reissues, a movie role that was barely seen outside of off-hours on BET -- it's hard to believe that he spent four years without releasing an album of new compositions...and if you don't count the Bacharach collaboration, it's been a full six years since his last album. Either way, it was the longest stretch of time between albums in Costello's career, capping off a decade of records where he seemed to determine to flaunt his versatility, range, and ambition, which may be the reason why the focused, stripped-down artiness and resurgent acerbic wit sounds particularly fresh on When I Was Cruel. As such, it's easy to be tempted to call the record a return to form, but it's not an accurate assessment, not least because it's not as strong as Painted From Memory. It is accurate to call it the most Costello Costello record since probably Blood & Chocolate -- one that maintains a consistent tone, bristles with nasty humor, and is filled with carefully written lyrics (some could call them labored) and knowing, clever musicality. Since it's a post-Froom, post-Ribot production, it's murky and hazy, with muffled drums, shoebox guitars, obscured loops, and angled arrangements all signifying that while this is his first pop album in years, it's still a serious experience (but fortunately much livelier than the Froom productions, and not nearly as mannered or affected). In other words, it's exactly what it was supposed to be and it's successful on those terms, but that shouldn't be mistaken as a creative rebirth along the lines of, say, Love & Theft, or a record that will play outside of the cult, since the sound and approach is pretty insular. Given all the care that was put in the production, the variety of the music, and the craft of the lyrics, it's no surprise that there are memorable moments -- whether it's the horns on "Episode of Blonde" or the dynamite guitar on "Tear off Your Own Head (It's a Doll Revolution)," -- but they're moments in songs, not songs themselves. Each song is so tightly wound, only those who automatically listen to new Costello records obsessively upon release will unravel their mysteries. Those listeners will find plenty to obsess over and will be satisfied, since, outside of the Bacharach album, it's his best in a long time. But in order to know that, you will have to have diligently listened to everything from Spike on -- and if you got off the bus around then, it's harder than ever to get back on.

tags: elvis costello,  when i was cruel, 2002, flac,

Jane's Addiction - Kettle Whistle (1997)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: 9 46752-2
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© 1997 Warner Bros. Records
Kettle Whistle Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
According to alterna-rock legend, Jane's Addiction was the band responsible for laying the groundwork of the alternative rock explosion in the early '90s, but like most legends, that's half true and half lie. Jane's was instrumental in making alternative rock accessible to the metal audience, mainly because they were essentially a metal band with neo-psychedelic, neo-prog pretensions -- two genres that have always appealed to metal and hard rock audiences. Nothing confirms that fact like Kettle Whistle, an odds and ends collection of live tracks, demos, alternate takes, and new tracks recorded by a "relapsed" Jane's featuring all the original members minus Eric Avery, who is replaced by Flea. Unfortunately, Kettle Whistle isn't the best place to hear their achievements, whether you're a diehard or a curious fan. Simply put, nothing here needed to be released, and there are no revelations. If anything, cuts like the embarrassing "My Cat's Name Is Maceo" detract from the Jane's myth, and the reunited cuts sound like standard-issue Porno for Pyros. The demos and alternate takes are all unnecessary, sounding like miniature, emasculated versions of the finished product, with the exception of the swinging "Been Caught Stealing." The live tracks are another matter, capturing both the power and the transcendence of Jane's Addiction's live performances. That's still not enough to make Kettle Whistle a worthy release because there is no sense or logic to its sequencing, and only a few tracks capture the power of Jane's (and even those will be familiar to diehards through bootlegs). It's not a terrible record, but it isn't a very good one, and it's hard to picture Kettle Whistle as anything other than an attempt to cash in on their legend.

tags: janes addiction, kettle whistle, 1997, flac,

Stone Temple Pilots - Perdida (2020)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Acoustic Rock, Alternative Rock
Label Number: R2 585644/603497853519
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© 2020 Rhino Records
Perdida Review by Neil Z. Yeung
After a decade bookended by just two album releases and capped off with a pair of tragic deaths, Stone Temple Pilots press pause on their usual big rock sound to process grief with their back-to-basics acoustic eighth album, Perdida. Titled after the Spanish word for "loss," this introspective set is weathered, weary, and surprisingly beautiful, an intentional therapy session for a band that's experienced its fair share of tragedy and drama. As such, loss is the central theme for much of the album, but instead of being weighed down by sadness and misery, Perdida does its best to find hope in the darkness. From the dusty, country-tinged opener "Fare Thee Well" to the flamenco-kissed title track, STP take this opportunity to play with a variety of ideas and inspirations, resulting in one of their most enjoyable and straightforward efforts to date. The plaintive "I Didn't Know the Time" floats upon moody flute accompaniment, an evocative highlight that features one of a handful of gorgeous extended solos on Perdida. Meanwhile, bassist Robert DeLeo takes center stage for the first time as a vocalist on the reflective "Years," a vulnerable goodbye to love, and guitarist Dean DeLeo has his turn with the instrumental "I Once Sat at Your Table," which swells with optimism and hope. Vocalist Jeff Gutt does a fine job with the material, filling the space left by two iconic frontmen without completely falling prey to karaoke imitation. His voice shines and -- even if Weiland's spirit can be felt on certain songs like "Three Wishes" and "Miles Away" -- he meets the challenge head on, taking the lead as the DeLeo brothers, drummer Eric Kretz, and a team of guests provides lush backing with a string section, guitarron, saxophone, and even a marxophone at various points throughout. Fans of their hard-charging radio singles might be blindsided by this shift, but those listeners keen on "Big Empty," "Creep," "Lady Picture Show," and "Sour Girl" should appreciate the vulnerability and maturity on display here. Drawing from a deep well of emotions, Stone Temple Pilots bare their souls and take the first steps toward moving on into a new era. Even though it's focused on loss -- in life and in love -- Perdida ends up feeling like a rebirth, losing the past to make way for the future. Like the barren tree on the album cover, life eventually blooms again in time.

tags: stone temple pilots, perdida, 2020, flac,

Jane's Addiction - Up From The Catacombs: The Best of Jane's Addiction (2006)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: R2 73222
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© 2006 Warner Bros./Rhino Records
Up from the Catacombs: The Best of Jane's Addiction Review by J. Scott McClintock
With their mark left firmly in the roots of the late-'80s alternative movement, Jane's Addiction sired a hog's litter of new bands -- devotees and copycats alike -- and sliced a bloody (but sexy) gouge in the side of college and (later) mainstream radio that's still healing, decades on. They took the stale, empty, last gasps of the Reagan era and smothered them under a purple, leopard-print throw pillow, threw genre classifications out the door and sexed up listeners while blowing them away. They brought the world Lollapalooza and Dave Navarro's abs and, for this, the world should be eternally grateful. If you missed any of that the first time around, it's time to get your head right. Warner Brothers and Rhino have saved you the trouble of buying up a whole discography's worth of good stuff by distilling most of the best bits down to Up from the Catacombs: The Best of Jane's Addiction. While any alterna-kid worth his chain wallet should be forced to own Nothing's Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual, Up from the Catacombs does a surprisingly good job of delivering Jane's Addiction's goods in a compact package. Save for two tracks included from their 2003 "comeback" album, Strays, all of the stuff here is essential. In fact, it's all so good that within a week of purchase, this collection is going to inspire newbies to toss it to the used-record bin in favor of the stellar full-lengths.

tags: janes addiction, up from the catacombs the best of janes addiction, 2006, flac,

September 29, 2021

D.J. Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - Rock The House (1987)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
Label Number: J2-1026
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© 1987-1988 Jive Records
Rock the House Review by Alex Henderson
In the 1980s, Philadelphia's hip-hop scene was diverse. At one extreme was the controversial Schoolly D, who was among the founders of gangsta rap even though he wasn't as big as West Coast agitators like N.W.A. and Ice-T. And at the other extreme was DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, whose fun, lighthearted, often goofy tales were great for comic relief. Rock the House, the duo's debut album of 1987, demonstrated that Will Smith, aka the Fresh Prince, was as entertaining and amusing a storyteller as Dana Dane or Slick Rick. But unlike those New York MCs, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince weren't off-color or controversial -- in fact, their unthreatening, clean-cut image led some journalists to dub them "the Cosby kids of rap." And the Philadelphians had no problem with that; in a 1989 interview, Smith asserted that he was proud to be compared to the Cosby kids. You won't find a lot of hard-hitting social commentary on Rock the House; Smith and his partner keep things lighthearted on tunes like "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" (the hit single that sampled the I Dream of Jeannie theme and put them on the map) and "Just One of Those Days." Equally strong is "Guys Ain't Nothing But Trouble," a sequel to "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" that features female rapper Ice Cream Tee (who had a lot of potential but didn't get very far as a solo artist). Is Rock the House pop-rap? Absolutely. But for DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, lighthearted doesn't mean lightweight. In terms of rapping technique, Smith could hold his own against any of the more hardcore rappers who came out of Philly in the 1980s. This excellent LP is a classic of its kind.

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tags: dj jazzy jeff and the fresh prince, rock the house, 1987, flac,

D.J. Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - Homebase (1991)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
Label Number: J2 1392
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© 1991 Jive Records
Homebase Review by Steve Huey
After the disappointingly uneven And in This Corner..., DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince restarted their commercial momentum with Homebase, which fitted Will Smith's rhymes with up-to-date, radio-friendly production and a much richer overall sound. For the first time, the album's key single wasn't a comic narrative: "Summertime" was a warm, breezy reminiscence about growing up in Philadelphia and attending barbecues where the whole community showed up to see and be seen. It had all the good vibes of a typical Fresh Prince number, but it was clearly a more mature effort, and that's Homebase in a nutshell. The smoothed-out R&B background of "Summertime" provides a template for the record's poppier moments, and there's a thumping new club influence on the dancefloor cuts. Lyrically, when he's not trying to move your butt, Smith paints himself as more of a ladies' man, in keeping with his new young-adult persona. If he's still more innocent than LL Cool J, he's throwing out all his best lines on the single "Ring My Bell" and trying to play the field on "A Dog Is a Dog." And there are a few story songs, like "Who Stole the DJ" and "You Saw My Blinker," that benefit from the fresher-sounding beats. While it doesn't have the youthful, old-school charm of He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper, Homebase is a successful reinvention that laid the groundwork for Smith's multimedia stardom as an adult.

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tags: dj jazzy jeff and the fresh prince, homebase, 1991, flac,

Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince - Code Red (1993)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
Label Number: 01241-41489-2
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© 1993 Jive Records
Code Red Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
After years of proclaiming that he wouldn't do gangsta rap, the Fresh Prince finally succumbs to a harder-edged style on Code Red. And, surprisingly, he pulls it off well, thanks to sharp production and his endearing personality.

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tags: dj jazzy jeff and the fresh prince, code red, 1993, flac,

Enslaved - Frost (1994) ☠

*First pressing. 
Contains 9 tracks total.
Country: Norway
Language: English
Genre: Black Metal
Label Number: OPCD 025
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1994 Osmose Productions
Frost Review by Jason Anderson
An important release for the extreme music subgenre of Viking metal, Frost represented a sizeable creative leap for Norway's Enslaved. After only a few years of existence, several record labels, and a few member changes, Enslaved had settled into a bit of a groove on this 1994 release. Bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson leads the way with plenty of throat splitting call-outs to various Norse gods and apocalyptic battle descriptions, while Ivar Bjørnson (guitar, keyboards) and Trym Torson (drums) plow through plenty of destructive riffs of their own. The music oscillates between spooky, plodding keyboard intros to black metal so fast and furious, barely a beat or melody is descernable. Highlights include the relatively decipherable "Fenris" and the slow, dissonant "Yggdrasil," but in general, all the tracks on Frost bear enough of a resemblance to make this 1994 release a fine black metal listen. Fans of the Viking metal subgenre certainly need to add this to their collection, but metal fans, even lovers of the sonically similar (but much more American) death metal genre, might not respond to Frost.

tags: enslaved, frost, 1994, flac,

Abigor - Nachthymnen (From The Twilight Kingdom) (1995) ☠

Country: Austria
Language: English
Genre: Black Metal
Label Number: NPR 014
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1995 Napalm Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

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Will Smith - Big Willie Style (1997)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
Label Number: CK 68683
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© 1997 Columbia Records
Big Willie Style Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Will Smith wisely decided not to change his style too much on Big Willie Style, the first record he released since becoming a major movie star with appearances in Independence Day and Men in Black. Instead of trying to toughen his image, Smith continued with the friendly, humorous pop-rap that has been his trademark since He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper. Of course, he gives the music a glossy modern sheen (ironically based on early-'80s funk) in order to prove that he's still hip -- and it works. Sure, there's filler scattered all the way the through the album, but the best moments -- the disco-thumping "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It," the Larry Blackmon duet "Candy," the ballad "I Loved You," and the riotous "Men in Black" -- rank among his best singles.

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Will Smith - Willennium (1999)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
Label Number: CK 69985
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© 1999 Columbia Records
Willennium Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
By the time Will Smith released Willennium in November 1999, it was fashionable to put him down, especially since he was recovering from his first major stumble, the overblown Wild Wild West. Probably just the fact that he was everywhere made certain spoilsports long to take him down a notch, but Wild Wild West wasn't a mess because of him; in fact, he provided the only glimmers of fun in the whole misguided mess, through sheer star power. And that star power drives Willennium, turning it into a bold, brassy delight. Smith just doesn't care what anyone thinks; he knows he's a superstar, and he revels in his status. He likes to make fun music, and he likes to make it on a grand scale. Furthermore, he has no shame about entertaining. Consequently, Willennium is a gonzo pleasure in the way only a handful of big-budget pop albums can be: gaudy, giddy, infectiously silly, and proudly over-the-top. Case in point, its de facto title track, "Will 2K." Smith and his producers picked the Clash's "Rock the Casbah" as the foundation for an end-of-the-century party jam, a move so mind-bogglingly unpredictable that it's hard not to smile. And that spirit carries throughout the album, as Smith drops lyrical and musical allusions that are at once well-known and totally out of left field. All of this is done to bright, joyful party music that celebrates its big beats and big hooks. Smith isn't quite as convincing when it comes to slow jams, but still his charm shines through. But the heart of the album lies in the up-tempo dance numbers, since they're what make Willennium irresistible. And this is one of the rare times that an abundance of cameos enhances the spirit of an album, making Willennium feel like a Y2K blowout where everyone is invited.

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tags: will smith, willennium, 1999, flac,