December 31, 2022

10,000 Maniacs - MTV Unplugged (1993)

Country: U.S.A. 
Genre: Acoustic Rock
Label Number: 9 61569-2

© 1993 Elektra Records
When it was recorded, nobody knew that MTV Unplugged would be 10,000 Maniacs' last album with Natalie Merchant. As it stands, it's a quiet, gentle way for her to bow out, offering no new revelations but several solid versions of the group's signature songs (mainly concentrating on Our Time in Eden) and a cover of Patti Smith's "Because the Night." It's nothing new, but for fans it's a graceful way to say goodbye.

tags: 10,000 manics, mtv unplugged, 1993, flac,

Jimmy Page & Robert Plant - No Quarter: Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Unledded (1994)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Acoustic Rock
Label Number: 526 362-2

 © 1994 Fontana
Ever since Led Zeppelin parted ways after the death of drummer John Bonham, fans were clamoring for the mighty band to reunite. This willfully ignored both the vital contribution Bonham gave to the group's mystique and Zeppelin's woeful one-off reunion at the 1985 Live Aid charity concert, but the legend of the band was so strong, reunion rumors reached a fever pitch whenever vocalist Robert Plant or guitarist Jimmy Page had a new album in the stores. In 1994, following Plant's moody, misunderstood 1993 album Fate of Nations and Page's widely lambasted collaboration with Whitesnake singer David Coverdale, the two quietly reunited to record a concert for MTV's then-popular acoustic concert series Unplugged. Page & Plant interpreted the Unplugged moniker rather liberally, bringing in a full orchestra, mandolins, and a hurdy-gurdy among other instruments, and Page turned to an electric guitar on occasion. Nevertheless, the "unplugged" setting did give the duo an opportunity to gracefully back away from the bombast that was assumed to be Zeppelin's stock-in-trade; after all, it would have been very hard to do "Whole Lotta Love," "Dazed and Confused," or "Trampled Underfoot" in this setting. Instead, this gives them a chance to dive into the moodiest material, trading heavily on the folk, blues, and world music that gave Led Zeppelin a richness unheard in their heavy rock peers. This might not be what some diehards were expecting from a reunion, but it was a gutsy move from Page & Plant, and the ensuing album, No Quarter, has aged remarkably well. That's not to say that it's timeless music, or a latter-day comeback on the level of Bob Dylan's Love and Theft, but this is ambitiously atmospheric, restless music by musicians not content to rest on their laurels. They do draw heavily from their past, but these new versions of classic Led Zeppelin songs sound reinvigorated in these new arrangements. At times, this means that the songs are given rather drastic reinterpretations -- "Nobody's Fault but Mine" brings the brooding undercurrent of the original to the surface, "Four Sticks" sounds livelier in this spare setting -- while other tunes sound similar to the recorded versions but are given spirited readings ("That's the Way," "The Battle of Evermore," "Gallows Pole"). Between these revived Zeppelin numbers are a few new songs, all ambitious and solid, fitting right into the vibe of the album; even if they don't match the older tunes, they're respectable and gain strength upon repeated listens. As good as much of No Quarter is, it isn't necessarily the kind of record that invites those repeated listens. At its core, it's an experiment, the sound of two middle-aged musicians looking back at their groundbreaking work and finding both sustenance and inspiration there. That makes for fascinating listening, both upon the first spin and a return play several years later, but it doesn't necessarily make for an album that's played all that often. [Upon its original 1994 release No Quarter contained 13 tracks. Several years later, it was reissued overseas, adding the previously unreleased original "Wah Wah" as a bonus track. Upon the album's tenth anniversary, it was reissued in the U.S. with "Wah Wah," plus the previously unreleased "The Rain Song," which took the place of "Thank You," which was cut from the album on this reissue. Finally, the 2004 reissue retitled the original "Yallah" as "The Truth Explodes."]

tags: jimmy page and robert plant, no quarter jimmy page and robert plant unledded, 1994, flac,

Various Artists - Def Jam's How To Be a Player Soundtrack

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A. 
Genre: Hip-Hop, R&B
Label Number: 314 537 973-2

© 1997 Def Jam Records
Def Jam's How to Be a Player is an excellent collection of funky urban R&B and hip-hop that manages to keep a party groove going, even in spite of a handful of mediocre cuts.

 tags: various artists, def jams how to be a player soundtrack, ost, 1997, flac,

December 30, 2022

Klaus Nomi - Simple Man (1982)

*First pressing. 
Contains 12 tracks total.
Country: Germany
Language: English 
Genre: Art Pop, New Wave
Label Number: PD 70229

© 1982-1985 RCA Records
Coming off such a left-field debut, it was up in the air as to what Klaus Nomi would do for a follow-up. That second album was Simple Man, and if listeners were unsure if the first album was a put-on, this one certainly didn't do much to clear things up. While the album starts out promisingly with an atmospheric fade-in followed by a hard dance number with the occasional Birthday Party-style guitar thrown in, the rest of the album did its damnedest to move the album's overall tone to one of self-parody. Could one really think any differently listening to the hyper-sugary cover of "Just One Look," the faux-country disco number "Rubberband Lazer," or the version of "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead"? As with the debut album, Nomi's true capabilities are shown off by his versions of classical works -- in this case, "Death" (taken from Henry Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas") and "Return" (which is based on a choral number by John Dowland). The thing is, those pieces are right at the end of the album and the listeners who would enjoy them the most will probably already have been long shaken off by all of the kitsch leading up to it.

 tags: klaus, nomi, simple man, 1982, flac,

Wall of Voodoo - The Index Masters (1991)

Country: U.S.A. 
Genre: New Wave, Post Punk
Label Number: 7 70111-2

© 1991 Restless Records
The Index Masters chronicles the early years of Wall of Voodoo, digitizing the group's debut self-titled EP, The Morricone Themes (appearing here under a different title), from their Ring of Fire 12", and nine live tracks from the same concert at which The Morricone Themes was recorded. The live recordings from 1979 include songs that later appeared on Dark Continent, as well as a very early performance of "Tomorrow" from Call of the West. The package includes lyrics to the first six tracks, an early concert review, and a thorough reproduction of the EP's original artwork. A couple of the live tracks ("End of an Era" and "Invisible Man") are particularly interesting because they are compositions that have not otherwise been released. The Index Masters is a collector's dream, but a little uneven despite the presence of their classic version of "Ring of Fire."

 tags: wall of voodoo, the index masters, 1991, flac,

Funky Aztecs - Addicted (1999)

Country: U.S.A. 
Genre: Hip-Hop 
Style: Gangsta Rap, Chicano Rap
Label Number: 463417084-2

© 1999 Private I Records
The Funky Aztec's 1999 album Addicted adds two new members to the group and a newly urban, universal feel to their hip-hop. Songs like "Morena" and "The System" reflect a commitment to their Latino heritage, social consciousness and tight songwriting.

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 tags: funky aztecs, addicted, 1999, flac,

Various Artists - Definitive Jux Presents III (2004)

Country: U.S.A. 
Genre: Hip-Hop 
Label Number: DJXP76-P

© 2004 Definitive Jux
Now three volumes old, the Definitive Jux Presents series pleases fans with new and exclusive tracks and makes for a good introduction for newcomers with its roster-spanning lineup. As underwhelming as his debut was, S.A. Smash offers up a contender with "Devil in the Hole," a track so lively, tight, and catchy you can close your eyes and see the Hype Williams video. C-Rayz Walz is another rapper who could actually slip into the mainstream -- and his "Jello" is excellent -- but the rest of the collection sticks with the classic, grimy and gritty Definitive Jux sound. Camutao and the man behind Definitive Jux, El-P, give MobyP. Diddy, and Usher a good slap on "WMR," an underground anthem that turns "stereo" into a six-syllable word. El-P's also behind the first-rate "Oxycontin, Pt. 2" -- a compelling narrative about respect between drug addict and drug dealer -- but he's also turned over more of the album than usual to other producers. Nasa and Aesop Rock get plenty of turns, but it's DJ paWL who trumps them all with a fresh, futuristic production on Hangar 18's track and a remix of Aesop Rock. Spreading out the consecutive academic tracks that slow down the beginning would have helped make this collection more necessary, and the debut from the promised El-P and S.A. Smash project, Central Services, is notably absent. Regardless, Definitive Jux Presents, Vol. 3 maintains the label's respected status and points to a bright future.

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 tags: various artists, definitive jux presents 3, 2004, flac,

December 29, 2022

Klaus Nomi - Klaus Nomi (1981) ☠

*This is a repress of the original 1981 LP release on CD. 
Contains 10 tracks total.
Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Art Pop, New Wave
Label Number: ND74420
☠: Selected by Lass
© 1981 RCA/BMG/Spindizzy
It only takes a quick look at the cover to get a reasonably decent idea that this isn't your typical pop album: Decked out in a grossly oversized suit and heavy theatrical makeup, Klaus Nomi is not your typical pop singer, either. Both the cover and the music within lean heavily to the dramatic -- Nomi's delivery is all in a very operatic falsetto, though most of the music itself is more of the early-'80s European dance school (indeed, one of his collaborators here was Man Parrish, probably best-known for his later work with Man 2 Man). Only one of the tracks here was self-penned; rather, Nomi gets down to work here as an interpreter, turning in suitably skewed versions of "Lightning Strikes" and Chubby Checker's "The Twist." The real highlights here are his take on Kristian Hoffman's song "Total Eclipse," and a rather straight (ahem) reading of the aria from Saint-Saens' classical work Samson and Delilah. It's pretty hard to imagine your typical classical music buff embracing this song, let alone the entire album, but fans of off-kilter pop music will certainly find a lot to love about this album.

 tags: klaus nomi, klaus nomi album, 1981, flac,

Bumpy Knuckles (Freddie Foxxx) - Crazy Like a Foxxx (2008) ☠

*Originally slated for a 1994 release but was shelved. 
This is a 2 disc set. Disc 1 contains the original 1994 album. 
Disc 2 contains the 1993 demo version produced by D.I.T.C.

Country: U.S.A. 
Genre: Hip-Hop 
Style: Hardcore Hip-Hop
Label Number: FP 222
☠: Selected by Lass
© 1994-2008 Fat Beats
Originally set for a ’94 release, CRAZY LIKE A FOXXX was supposed to be Freddie Foxxx’s sophomore effort, but instead was met with some 14 years of shelf-time. Fat Beats records finally gives underground fans what they’ve been craving--dusting off this unheard treasure trove from hip-hop’s golden era and repackaging it. This two-CD set includes the original album and a bonus disc of rough demos produced by Showbiz, Buckwild, and Lord Finesse. CRAZY LIKE A FOXXX features priceless collaborations with Chuck D, Kool G Rap, and 2Pac.

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 tags: bumpy knuckles, freddie foxxx, crazy like a foxxx, fox, 2008, flac,

PD3/Points Proven - Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? (1994)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hip-Hop 
Style: Jazz Rap
Label Number: PDCD001

© 1994 Payday Recordings
*No professional reviews are available for this release. 

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 tags: pd3 points proven, does anybody really know what time it is, 1994, flac,

Skadanks - Give Thanks (1994)

Country: U.S.A. 
Genre: Reggae, Ragga
Label Number: 61586-2

© 1994 Elektra Records
In the late '80s and early '90s, it seemed like the time was ripe for some kind of rock-funk-reggae fusion that would combine the best of all three styles and usher in a new era of exciting dance music that would sweep away the embarrassment of '80s rock forever. It did happen, but it happened in the U.K., and the result was called jungle. In the U.S., there were bands like the cringe-inducing Unity 2 and the much more enjoyable Shinehead. There was also Skadanks, a band that got snatched up by the Elektra label and managed to make one exquisite (but commercially unsuccessful) album before being dropped just as quickly. Give Thanks is a triumph of a debut album thanks to the muscular funk-and-dancehall grooves generated by drummer Q-Liff and bassist Alex V. and to the amazing verbal inventiveness and melodic gifts of vocalist Rocker-T, a white Rastafarian whose mastery of Jamaican patois is so complete that it's virtually impossible to guess his racial heritage on the evidence of his singing and toasting. Of the 12 tracks on this album, only two (the lackadaisical "2 Luv" and the similar underwhelming "Stopper") are less than excellent. Almost every other track counts as a highlight, though the horticultural admonition "Sweatty" (built on a classic Upsetters rhythm) is especially impressive, as are the angry "911" and a brilliant Rocker-T showcase titled "Ism-Skism." This comes very highly recommended. 

tags: skadanks, give thanks, 1994, flac,

December 28, 2022

The Associates - Fourth Drawer Down (2000 Remastered Edition)

*Reissued and remastered in 2000 by V2
Contains 13 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave
Label Number: VVR1012022

© 1981-2000 V2
Although the sleeve photos fittingly depict Billy Mackenzie and Alan Rankine immersed in a blue pool of seemingly chilly water, no set of images could bring the sound of the 1981 Situation Two singles collected on Fourth Drawer Down into full realization. Those who are familiar with Associates know this because of Mackenzie's operatically soulful voice, Rankine's wildly experimental production, and, when used, his atonal utilitarian guitar playing that seems like it's playing the multi-instrumentalist more than he's playing it. Just as there are Smiths fans who listen intently to Johnny Marr's guitar playing and attempt to block out Morrissey's flamboyance, there surely are numerous beings who tune out Mackenzie's crooning to hone in on Rankine's actions. Those who can appreciate both are in for a real feast, and those who prefer one over the other still have much to sink their teeth into. Cloistered noise fests like the aggressively doomy "Kitchen Person" still rattle the system as well as the best Siouxsie and the Banshees or Cure from the same era. "White Car in Germany," "A Girl Named Property," and "Q Quarters" glean from the three late-'70s records David Bowie made with Brian Eno, adding further dementia and corrosion like a torturer would dash salt on an open wound. To wit, this still sounds great front to back; the ballsiness in juxtaposing the A-sides and B-sides demonstrates their depth. The U.K. wing of V2 thankfully made Fourth Drawer Down part of their 2000 reissue campaign, improving the sound and adding five extras, including other B-sides and unreleased tracks from the era. The plodding Talking Heads sound-alike "Fearless" and decent "Point Si" are unearthed with good reason, and the charging murk of "Straw Towels" is almost as excellent as "The Associate." The programmed, insect-like percussive devices that provide anchor for the instrumental "Kissed" seem to predate the minimal techno acts on the Chain Reaction label by 15 years. As with the update of Sulk released the same year, Mackenzie biographer Tom Doyle provides excellent liner notes that fill the reader in on the duo's mystique.

 tags: the associates, fourth drawer down, 1981, 2000, remaster, flac,

Marc Almond & The Willing Sinners - Mother Fist & Her Five Daughters (1997 Reissue)

*Reissued in 1997 by Thirsty Ear
Contains 12 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Art Pop
Label Number: thi 57038.2
 
© 1987-1997 Thirsty Ear
Following up both Stories and his fine covers EP A Woman's Story, Almond took a turn for the more challenging on Mother Fist, to be rewarded with the loss of his contract and a search for a new label. Quite why that should have happened is all the more surprising when upon listening, it becomes clear that Mother Fist was and still is the best Almond album of original material to date. With Hedges once again producing and the Willing Sinners still producing instrumental magic -- the great work of Hogan on keyboards, McCarrick on cello and accordion, and McGee on bass and orchestrations simply can't be overstated here -- Almond created a generally sparer and more theatrical album that embraces classic European cabaret to wonderful effect, more so than any American or English "rock" album since Bowie's Aladdin Sane or Lou Reed's Berlin. The wonderful, cheeky swing of the opening title track -- an unashamed, Truman Capote-inspired ode to masturbation -- moves to the pulsing, piano-and-bass driven lover's lament "There Is a Bed," followed by the supremely drugged out and sleazy "Saint Judy" (as in Garland), each track showcasing Almond with a different but equally accomplished vocal approach. Mother Fist keeps going from strength to strength as the album progresses, almost a series of short stories come to life exploring hustlers, burnt-out boxers, romantic dreams, and desires; its centerpiece, the wonderful "Mr. Sad," shifts perfectly from a solo vocal with electric guitar to a full orchestral blast. All this and two great should-have-been hit singles, "Melancholy Rose" and the pulsing "Ruby Red," as well. An all-around triumph.

 tags: marc almond and the willing sinners, mother fist and her five daughters, 1987, 1997, reissue, flac,

December 27, 2022

Nico + The Faction - Camera Obscura (1985)

*U.K. first pressing. 
Contains 9 tracks total.
Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Darkwave
Label Number: BBL 63 CD

© 1985-1988 Beggars Banquet
The most noticeable thing about Camera Obscura, only Nico's sixth solo album in almost 20 years, is how relaxed she seems. Maybe it was a result of the security that now enveloped her, following her rediscovery and total reinvention in the arms of the British post-punk/goth scene -- people say that artists do their best work while they're living on the edge, and Nico's canon was living proof of that. But it was all behind her now and, if Camera Obscura does not sound positively comfortable, it's at least less despairing than its predecessors. Not that she had changed her stance too much -- listening to Nico remains a cathartic, solitary experience. But the claustrophobia that was so essential to each of her albums as far as Drama of Exile has given way to vistas that, aided by John Cale's wide-open production, render Camera Obscura an easy listen by comparison. Indeed, the reliance on the studio is so pronounced that there are moments when the album's closest antecedent lies in Cale's own past albums, with Nico's voice buried so deeply inside the mix that it's almost unnoticeable. Both the (studio improvised?) title cut and the lengthy "Fearfully in Danger" are absolutely Cale territory and, if Nico is allowed to shine at all, it's on "My Funny Valentine," executed precisely as one would hope she'd do it -- all sad and dark, with just a faint smile playing around her lips -- and "Das Lied Von Einsanen Madchens," a strident Teutonic ballad that, were its source better known, would doubtless be as universally effective as her rendition of "Deutschland Uber Alles" proved a decade before. The title, incidentally, translates as "the song of the lonely girls," a subject about which Nico certainly knew a thing or two. Camera Obscura is not classic Nico, but it's by no means disposable. Indeed, accepting that Cale's overwhelming presence should at least earn him a co-billing in the credits, there really is no one else who could have made a record like this.

 tags: nico the faction, camera obscura, 1985, flac,

Top Quality - Magnum Opus (Promo CD) (1993)

*Promotional disc released in 1994, 
not intended for consumer sale. 
Contains 11 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A. 
Genre: Hip-Hop 
Label Number: 07863 66328-2

© 1993-1994 RCA/BMG/Hit Squad
For a short span of time during the early '90s, the offshoots of EPMD stylistically held the entire New York City rap scene on lockdown. While Erick Sermon's Def Squad scored early and often with Redman leading the charge, PMD's Hit Squad was left hoping to follow up the success of Das EFX with the release of Magnum Opus by Top Quality. Despite its obscurity and lackluster reception, the album reveals an uncanny panorama of East Coast hip-hop circa 1993. Complete with references to Philly blunts and "buddha," formatted at times in pig Latin and abrasively delivered by a roughneck emcee, the clich├ęs on Magnum Opus are abundant. But Top Quality actually proves why such confrontational music became so overwhelmingly popular in the first place. With a lyrical versatility seldom expressed within a single rap album, Top Quality pulls out all of the stops in order to outwit his beats. Indeed, the title track has become somewhat famous as an exercise in creative sampling. Other highlights include the story of the "Graveyard Shift," along with a few moments of compelling production provided by Charlie Marotta.

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 tags: top quality, magnum opus, promo, 1993, 1994, flac,

Phantasm - The Abominable (1995)

Country: U.S.A. 
Genre: Death Metal
Label Number: DTMD 101-2

©1995 Death Trap/Monster Drive
*No professional reviews are available for this release. 

tags: phantasm, the abominable, 1995, flac,

December 26, 2022

Dougie Dee - Do Ya Wanna Ride? (1993)

Country: U.S.A. 
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap 
Label Number: 314 514 318-2

© 1993 Mercury Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release. 

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 tags: dougie dee, do ya wanna ride, 1993, flac,

Various Artists - Def Jam's Greatest Hits: Hardcore (1997)

Country: U.S.A. 
Genre: Hip-Hop, R&B
Label Number: 314 536 377-2

© 1997 Rush Associated Labels
A companion piece to Def Jam Greatest Hits, Def Jam Greatest Hits Hardcore is very similar to its predecessor in that it doesn't quite follow any specific chronological order and combines the label's early hits with later hits, which doesn't always make musical sense. Also, there are as many "hardcore" songs on Greatest Hits as there are on Hardcore, so the musical difference between these two discs is negligible. Still, Def Jam Greatest Hits Hardcore has a number of terrific singles, including Public Enemy's "Public Enemy #1," Method Man's "Method Man (Remix)," EPMD's "Gold Digger," L.L. Cool J's "I Need a Beat," Redman's "Blow Your Mind" and the Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere," which makes it a worthwhile purchase for casual rap fans.

 tags: various artists, def jams greatest hits hardcore, 1997, flac,

Various Artists - Metallic Attack: The Ultimate Tribute (2004)

Country: U.S.A. 
Genre: Thrash Metal, Heavy Metal
Label Number: TMF 1700

© 2006 Antagonist
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

 tags: various artists, metallic attack the ultimate tribute, 2004, flac,

KRS‐One - Life (2006)

Country: U.S.A. 
Genre: Hip-Hop 
Label Number: ANT2943

© 2006 Antagonist
 KRS-One has always been a socially conscious rapper, tackling different subjects throughout his career, most of which relate to problems that face many urban dwellers, especially black ones. But in Life, race is an issue he chooses not to tackle; in fact, he makes a point to mention that specifically. "I am hip-hop/I don't speak for blacks," he states in "Still Slippin'," understanding that his art has the ability to reach a large demographic (something he also addresses in "I'm on the Mic"). Instead, KRS-One speaks of problems that can and do afflict all people. "Everywhere across the nation more people are joining the homeless population," he states in "Mr. Percy," a song that discusses how easy it is to find yourself without a place to stay, despite your best efforts to work, save money, and improve your situation "with the state of the economy and the way that it is." In the electric guitar-driven "I Ain't Leavin'," KRS declares his "purpose is to inspire the poor" as he tries to explain their situation and sympathize with them. This is all delivered between lines about his own talent and dedication to hip-hop, ideas that, like on any true rap album, certainly aren't forgotten or ignored. But KRS-One has been writing rhymes for so long that this sort of thing doesn't seem trite or boastful. He talks about himself and the genre simultaneously, equating one with the other ("I am to hip-hop what flour is to pancakes"), which isn't actually uncalled for, being that he has been such a major figure in it, and it's a technique that keeps his lyrics pretty interesting. KRS-One has been around for a while, but his style has changed as the genre's progressed, and Life is an indication of this. It's not a perfect record, but the rhymes are pretty thoughtful, the beats are pretty good, the subject matter is pretty unique. Perhaps it can all be summed up best in a line from the closing song, "My Life" (originally stated in BDP's "I'm Still No. 1" : "You know what you need to learn?/Old-school artists don't always burn." If all of them are as talented as KRS-One is, that statement's absolutely true.

*Due to past abuse, comments for the Hip-Hop section have been disabled. 


 tags: krs one, life, 2006, flac,

December 25, 2022

Various Artists - Ali G Indahouse: Da Soundtrack (2002)

Country: U.S.A. 
Genre: Hip-Hop 
Label Number: CID 8115 583 019-2

© 2002 Universal Island Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release. 

tags: various artists, ali g indahouse da soundtrack, 2002, flac,