November 29, 2016

HIM - Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666 (1997) ☠

Country: Finland
Language: English
Genre: Gothic Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1997 Terrier
AllMusic Review by Antti J. Ravelin
You wouldn't expect a lot from a band whose debut album is entitled Greatest Lovesongs, Vol. 666, but H.I.M. surprises in a very positive way. H.I.M.'s stigma of so-called "love metal" is actually undeserved and relates only to Ville Valo's love-oriented lyrics; the music itself combines metal with '80s rock and some goth influences, and the album as a whole has a very diverse sound. Songs such as "The Beginning of the End" and "It's All Tears" especially prove that H.I.M. can do a lot better than their poor single track "When Love and Death Embrace." Two cover songs on a nine-track debut album might be too much, but Ville Valo seems to beg the difference. In fact, H.I.M.'s versions of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" and Blue ├ľyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" are very idiosyncratic and fit very well on Greatest Lovesongs, Vol. 666. "Wicked Game," especially, is somehow even better than Isaak's original version, or at least it proves that H.I.M. does have a sense for dynamics instead of playing just quiet or loud, which is pretty typical of H.I.M.'s contemporaries. "Don't Fear the Reaper" intriguingly reduces the volume at the end of the album and the female vocals and piano add hopeful tenderness. Greatest Lovesongs, Vol. 666 succeeds in pleasing everyone, whether they're into rock or pop.

tags: him, h.i.m., greatest lovesongs vol 666, 1997, flac,

Moonshine - ...Weep No More (1996)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1996 Arcane/Nightflow Music
*No professional reviews for this release.

Kool G Rap & 5 Family Click Presents: Click of Respect

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: East Coast Gangsta Rap
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© 2003 Blaze The World/Igloo Entertainment
*No professional reviews for this release.

November 26, 2016

Pink Floyd - A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Progressive Rock
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© 1987 EMI Records
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
A David Gilmour solo album in all but name, heavily featuring the kind of atmospheric instrumental music and Gilmour guitar sound typical of the Floyd before the now-departed Roger Waters took over, but lacking Waters' unifying vision and lyrical ability.

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Pink Floyd - The Wall (1979)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Progressive Rock
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© 1979-1984 Harvest Records
AllMusic Review by Rovi Staff
The Wall was Roger Waters' crowning accomplishment in Pink Floyd. It documented the rise and fall of a rock star (named Pink Floyd), based on Waters' own experiences and the tendencies he'd observed in people around him. By then, the bassist had firm control of the group's direction, working mostly alongside David Gilmour and bringing in producer Bob Ezrin as an outside collaborator. Drummer Nick Mason was barely involved, while keyboardist Rick Wright seemed to be completely out of the picture. Still, The Wall was a mighty, sprawling affair, featuring 26 songs with vocals: nearly as many as all previous Floyd albums combined. The story revolves around the fictional Pink Floyd's isolation behind a psychological wall. The wall grows as various parts of his life spin out of control, and he grows incapable of dealing with his neuroses. The album opens by welcoming the unwitting listener to Floyd's show ("In the Flesh?"), then turns back to childhood memories of his father's death in World War II ("Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1"), his mother's over protectiveness ("Mother"), and his fascination with and fear of sex ("Young Lust"). By the time "Goodbye Cruel World" closes the first disc, the wall is built and Pink is trapped in the midst of a mental breakdown. On disc two, the gentle acoustic phrasings of "Is There Anybody Out There?" and the lilting orchestrations of "Nobody Home" reinforce Floyd's feeling of isolation. When his record company uses drugs to coax him to perform ("Comfortably Numb"), his onstage persona is transformed into a homophobic, race-baiting fascist ("In the Flesh"). In "The Trial," he mentally prosecutes himself, and the wall comes tumbling down. This ambitious concept album was an across-the-board smash, topping the Billboard album chart for 15 weeks in 1980. The single "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2" was the country's best-seller for four weeks. The Wall spawned an elaborate stage show (so elaborate, in fact, that the band was able to bring it to only a few cities) and a full-length film. It also marked the last time Waters and Gilmour would work together as equal partners.

tags: pink floyd, the wall, 1979, flac,

Iced Earth - The Dark Saga (Limited Edtion) (1996)

*U.K. & European release. Contains 1 bonus track.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal
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© 1996 Century Media
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
As the cover artwork would suggest, Iced Earth's fourth album, 1996's The Dark Saga, is a concept album based on the popular Todd MacFarlane comic book series Spawn. Though most of the album poses the band in an uncommonly laid-back, non-thrashy mood, the songwriting of leader and guitarist Jon Schaffer is at an all-time inspirational high. In fact the band knocks out both the title track and the excellent "I Died for You" before the furious "Violate" provides the first taste of a double kick drum. Versatile singer Matthew Barlow is impressive throughout but the remarkable interplay between Schaffer and lead guitarist Randall Shawver is the album's true highlight, most notably on the dual harmonies of "The Hunter." Some of the momentum is lost with "The Suffering," a three-song suite that tends to plod along at times, but overall this is a strong album, and one of the band's best.

Ghostface Killah - Twelve Reasons To Die (2013)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2013 Soul Temple Entertainment
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
Wu-Tang rapper Ghostface Killah is no stranger to the concept album, having just dropped the R&B pillow-talk effort Ghostdini the Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City in 2009, but Twelve Reasons to Die is something bigger, and better. Produced entirely by film composer Adrian Younge, this creepy cool effort is a comic book on wax that relates to a real series of comic books released by executive producer RZA's Soul Temple imprint. On top of that, it's influenced heavily by the Italian murder mystery/slasher film genre known as giallo, where everything is smoky, sinister, and '70s, and while that may sound complicated, overwrought, and insider, the end product is none of the above. Like Younge's work on the Black Dynamite soundtrack, this period piece overflows with love and respect for its influencing genre. An autoharp and the sound of rain falling introduce "An Unexpected Call (The Set Up)," where no one knows what's lurking around the corner, while the closing title track seems ripped right out of some Dario Argento end credit sequence with rickety piano, wobbly string section, and echoing, earnest narration all painting a dreadful picture. Speaking of earnest, Ghostface is lyrically committed to the album's vision and keeps his tongue in cheek without ever overtly winking at the audience, offering "I never lose battles/Pimp bitches with a superhero logo on my chest/Big Gucci link, JFK on the crest" during the key cut "The Sure Shot, Pts. 1-2," while "Was an evil day, the sun glistened over the city/Shine bright in the window in the eyes of my kitty" is the vivid picture painting he does through his Tony Stark character elsewhere. Pushing the story forward doesn't trump the inspiration, and while the album is best listened to in one go, these strong cuts could easily be parceled out for any career-spanning Ghostface mixtape, plus Younge must love the Wu as much as he loves composer Ennio Morricone, judging from some of the banging beats he lays underneath along with the general production haziness that recalls RZA. It's short and limited, but it's well crafted and strong, and a worthy alternative to RZA's Man with the Iron Fists soundtrack done with some wild, Wallabee Kingpin spin.

tags: ghostface killah, killa, twelve reasons to die, 2013, flac,

Ghostface Killah - Twelve Reasons To Die II (2015)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2015 Linear Labs
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
Coming hot on the heels of Sour Soul, Ghostface's collaborative album with Toronto jazz band BadBadNotGood, this second 2015 LP reunites the Wu-Tang rapper with film composer Adrian Younge and acts as a sequel to the pair's critically acclaimed 2013 release, Twelve Reasons to Die. "Here's twelve more reasons to die!" Ghost declares on "Return of the Savage," giving up the album's alternative title, although Younge's music alone would alert fans that this is the sequel, as '70s funk and that era's Euro-slasher film soundtracks continue to frame the rapper's story of Mafioso warfare. The gritty electro found on "Powerful One" and the eerie-crossing-into-indie sound of "Resurrection Morning" widen the spectrum ever so slightly, while most everything else sounds like Curtis Mayfield and Ennio Morricone were genetically spliced together, and judging from Ghostface's enthusiasm and heightened inspiration, that's just what the rapper ordered. What's new and improved this time out is guest star Raekwon, who "plays" Lester Kane on the album, a mob boss gunning for the Killah's Tony Starks character with the aim of becoming his arch rival. The two bosses meet, Kane trumps Stark, and then Stark takes a personal journey before a rematch ensues -- with all the rest being spoilers, but the important thing is how well these two Wu brothers play off one another, sounding more in tune than on recent official Wu-Tang efforts. Fine choices like Vince Staples, Lyrics Born, and Bilal fill in the middle bit, while RZA drops in with some comic book narration whenever the story needs to speed up. Like the films Superman 2 and Aliens, the concept LP Twelve Reasons to Die II meets, and for action junkies exceeds, the high standard set by its predecessor.

tags: ghostface killah, killa, twelve reasons to die 2, 2015, flac,

November 25, 2016

Alice Cooper - Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits (1974)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hard Rock, Shock Rock
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© 1974-1988 Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
With the future of the original Alice Cooper band in doubt by mid-1974 (they would soon break up for good with Alice going solo), Warner Bros. decided to issue a best-of compilation entitled Greatest Hits. If you're a newcomer to Alice, this 12-track compilation is a must-hear -- all the selections are exceptional. While many have chosen to focus primarily on Cooper's theatrics over the years, the original bandmembers were indeed supreme rock songwriters; such anthems as "I'm Eighteen," "Under My Wheels," "School's Out," and "No More Mr. Nice Guy" are unquestionably among the finest hard rock tracks of all time. And the other selections prove to be just as strong -- "Is It My Body," "Desperado," "Be My Lover," "Elected," "Billion Dollar Babies," and "Muscle of Love" are all outstanding as well. The only criticism of the original release is that the collection overlooked the band's key album tracks never issued as singles.

Metallica - S&M (1999)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Thrash Metal, Heavy Metal
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              *****
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© 1999 Vertigo Records
AllMusic Review by Gina Boldman
After 1988's ...And Justice for All, Metallica pared down its progressive, heavy metal sound. During the '90s, the band's studio releases grew slicker and more produced, resulting in mostly radio-friendly, good ol' boy metal. By the end of the decade, Metallica was established as the pioneer of modern metal, but the band hadn't done anything innovative, arguably, in ten years. In April 1999, the group performed two concerts with the San Francisco Symphony, and the result was S&M, a two-disc collection of the concerts. Overall, the album successfully pairs violin strings with guitar strings, but it's no surprise that the best tracks here are the older songs; their multi-layered, compositional style works well with symphonic arrangements. "Master of Puppets," "Call of the Ktulu," "One," and "For Whom the Bell Tolls" sound richer and fuller with violin, trumpet, clarinet, harp, trombone, and flute accompaniments, but "Sad but True," "Devil's Dance," and especially "Of Wolf and Man" range from haphazard and melodramatic to uninspired. S&M definitely has its moments, and not just with the pre-Black Album material: "Fuel" surpasses the furious pumping energy of the studio version, "Hero of the Day" stays poignant throughout, and "Until It Sleeps" has a wonderfully sinister feel. James Hetfield maintains his madman persona from beginning to end, laughing maniacally and grunting and growling at all the right moments. Overall, the symphony adds a macabre, ghoulish atmosphere -- it all sounds like a Broadway freak show or a revved-up Danny Elfman nightmare. Which is exactly what a Metallica album should sound like, even if every song isn't the best (or most appropriate) in the band's catalog.

tags: metallica, s&m, s and m, 1999, flac,

T.T. Quick - Sloppy Seconds (1989) ☠

 Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1989-1992 Halycon Recording Corporation
*No professional reviews available.

tags: tt quick, mark tornillo,

Inspectah Deck - Manifesto (2010)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2010 Urban Icon/Traffic Entertainment
AllMusic Review by Matt Rinaldi
One of the original Wu-Tang workhorses, Inspectah Deck has remained one of the group's most consistent and capable lyricists. And while the solo success achieved by a Method Man or a Ghostface has eluded him, on his fourth LP, Manifesto, Deck shows he isn't ready to abandon the tried and true approach that's brought him this far. After trying out a rapid-fire quasi-Dirty South flow on "Tombstone Intro" (which he reprises in a later interlude), the Rebel INS is quickly back to his old self by track two, "The Champion," delivering a plethora of ghetto images with signature brute force ("I stream machine gun funk, trunk-slayer/Major pain game-hunter") over a haunting Alchemist slow-burner. Next Cormega joins him for the lofty "Born Survivor," which mixes thrash metal guitars and a scattering of excerpts from an Obama speech. Elsewhere, the Staten Island MC does his ghetto love song schtick on "Luv Letter," calling to mind some of Uncontrolled Substance's highlights. Throughout Manifesto's 20-deep track list, Deck demonstrates his capabilities -- though perhaps not much imagination -- behind the boards, as he handles executive production duties as well as personally producing four tracks. His beat on "T.R.U.E." revisits a familiar Gwen McGrae sample but still works as a serviceable backdrop to INS' well-cadenced verses, while the uninspired piano loop behind "We Get Down" sounds like every unremarkable 50 Cent beat that made you press FF. Aside from a few stale beats, Manifesto also sinks to downright embarrassing depths on occasion. The vocoder-tinged hook on "The Big Game" will likely be considered unforgivable by boom-bap purists still on Deck's side, while failing to win over any new fans who prefer the club-friendly efforts of, say, T-Pain or Flo Rida. Similarly, the sleazy pickup rhymes of "5 Star G" come off like an impromptu Jigga-at-his-worst rendition. Still, despite a handful of throwaway cuts, Manifesto has more than enough heat to prove that Deck's mike skills still stand up up to any of his Wu brethren (check INS' juggernaut force flows on "P.S.A." or "Brothaz Respect" to put any doubts to rest). Among latter-day Wu-Tang efforts, it ranks somewhere above 4:21...The Day After but still well below Cuban Linx, Pt. 2.

tags: inspectah deck, manifesto, 2010, flac,

November 24, 2016

P!nk - Can't Take Me Home (2000)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 2000 LaFace Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It may be hard to listen to Pink's debut album Can't Take Me Home without hearing TLC, specifically their 1999 album Fanmail. After all, L.A. Reid and Babyface were the executive producers for both albums, and they decided to use a skittering, post-jungle rhythm for the bedrock of these savvy, club-ready dance-pop productions -- a sound exploited expertly on TLC's record. If Can't Take Me Home pales next to Fanmail, it's not Pink's fault, nor is it because the album is sub-par; it's simply because it follows in the footsteps of a record that's as close to a modern classic as contemporary soul gets. Judged as its own entity, Pink's debut is quite strong, even if it isn't perfect. The production is masterminded by Babyface and LA Reid, who oversee such producers as Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, Terence "Tramp-Baby" Abney, Daryl Simmons, and Tricky (not to be confused with the dark trip-hop genius, of course), and throughout this album, their work sparkles, from the deft layers of drum machines to the sultriness of the slow grooves. For the most part, Pink's performances match that production -- she may not be able to deliver ballads with assurance and soul just yet, but she never over-sings. She also not only has an appealing voice, but displays a fair amount of chops. So, with the production and performances in place, that leaves just the songs. While there are no bad cuts on Can't Take Me Home, there aren't any knock-out punches, either. They're all fairly well-crafted, but they're more ingratiating than immediate, and if dance-pop should be anything, it should be indelible upon at least the second listen, if not the first. Many of the songs on Can't Take Me Home need a few spins before they truly sink in, which is a bit unfortunate. Still, it's not the worst situation in the world, either, especially since a lot of the tunes actually do make an impression with repeated plays. So, Can't Take Me Home doesn't really escape many of the pitfalls of a debut, but thanks to LA Reid and Babyface's production and Pink's engaging talents, it's a promising first effort all the same.

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Inspectah Deck - The Movement (2003)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2003 Koch Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Compared to his partners in Wu-Tang Clan, Inspectah Deck usually keeps a low profile; besides his features on Wu LPs or solo projects from GZA or Killa Beez, he surfaces only when he's finished an album. Four years after a debut that reportedly took four years to reach the stores, The Movement also dropped on a new label. Sporting few features and only a pair of main producers (Hassan from UMC and Ayatollah), Deck certainly isn't out to break the Top Ten. In fact, sporting a message to "protest the radio stations," he's out to take hip-hop back from the crossover artists. Fortunately, he's clever enough to know that the music is what matters and that if he simply makes a great rap album the fans will follow. The Movement has plenty of what Wu-Tang fans know and love: first and foremost, the smooth flow but also the scarred soul samples. Versatility is the name of the game, from laid-back blaxploitation funk on "The Stereotype" to harder material like "U Wanna Be." One of the best moments comes with a tag-team between two of the best hardcore rappers of the past ten years -- Deck and Kool G Rap -- on "Framed."

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Kool G Rap - Riches, Royalty & Respect (2011)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
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© 2011 Fat Beats Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
The production lineup for Riches, Royalty & Respect is not quite as impressive as that of 2007’s Half a Klip, which boasted DJ Premier. G Rap instead leans on beats from a assortment of up-and-comers while enlisting DJ Supa Dave, the Alchemist, and career-long associate Marley Marl. Although G Rap's flow is not as energizing as it once was -- it now packs a heft that is both considerable and measured -- he can still spin a tale, draw up a fleshed-out concept, and epitomize hardcore rap as well as any MC half his age. The rugged and more dramatic beats -- “In Too Deep,” “Sad,” and the Havoc-assisted “American Nightmare” -- bring out the best in G Rap. His mere presence is enough to carry the weaker tracks.

Ghostface Killah - Supreme Clientele (2000)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2000 Epic/Razor Sharp Records
AllMusic Review by M.F. DiBella
Most of the members of rap's Roman Empire, the Wu-Tang Clan, experienced sophomore slumps with their second solo releases, whether artistically or commercially (usually both). The second offerings from Method Man, Ol' Dirty Bastard, GZA, and Raekwon featured some of the old Wu magic, but not enough to warrant a claim to their once total mastery of the rap game. Just as the Wu empire appeared to be crumbling, along came the second installment from the Clan's spitfire element, Ghostface Killah (aka Tony Starks, aka Ironman). Every bit as good as his first release, Supreme Clientele proves Ghost's worthiness of the Ironman moniker by deftly overcoming trendiness to produce an authentic sound in hip-hop's age of bland parity. Some of the Wu's slump could be contributed to Wu-Abbott's (aka RZA) relative sabbatical. This album has RZA's stamp all over it, but the guru himself only provides three tracks. On this effort, the Wu-Pupil producers at times seem to outdo their teacher. RZA's best composition is the piano-driven, double-entendre-laced childhood retrospective "Child's Play." But of the many standout cuts, it's the slew of disciple producers paying homage to the Wu legacy that truly makes this album fresh-sounding: "Apollo Kids" (Hassan), "Malcolm" (Choo the Specialist), "Saturday Nite" (Carlos "Six July" Broady), "One" (JuJu of the Beatnuts), "Cherchez la Ghost" (Carlos Bess), "Wu Banga 101" (Allah Mathematics). While the album is complete and characteristically Wu-sounding, each track is distinctive lyrically, thematically, and sonically. Ghostface's Supreme Clientele is a step toward the Wu-Tang Clan's ascent from the ashes of their fallen kingdom. The once slumbering Wu-Tang strikes again.

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Ghostface Killah - Fishscale (2006) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2006 Def Jam Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Whenever a veteran artist professes disinterest in modern music, a safe retreat into the past -- a tired attempt at recapturing the magic of classic material -- tends to follow. Since Ghostface Killah towed that line after the two least-thrilling albums of his career, Fishscale seemed destined to be just another part of his discography; if his fans were lucky, they'd get a couple flashes of his mad maverick genius and nothing as clumsily foul as "Tush." Fishscale is much more generous than that. It's evident that Ghost knows where he's at in his career, and it's directly acknowledged by the Mickey Goldmill-like boxing coach during "The Champ": "You ain't been hungry...since Supreme Clientele!" Ghost responds by pouring all that he has, both lyrically and vocally, into every track on the album. The scenarios he recounts are as detailed and off-the-wall as ever, elaborate screenplays laid out with a vocal style that's ceaselessly fluid and never abrasive. This is especially remarkable since each one of Ghost's lines, when transcribed, require one-to-five exclamation points, and every frantic scene's details -- from the onions on the steak, to the show on the television, to the socks sticking out of the "big Frankenstein hole" in a shoe worn by an accomplice -- are itemized without derailing the events. Since no active MC sounds better over obscure '70s soul samples, Ghost was wise to select productions that are best suited for him, no matter how bizarre or un-pop. Just Blaze, Lewis Parker, MoSS, Crack Val, Pete Rock, Doom, the late J Dilla, and several others supply Ghost with a tremendous round of productions. "Underwater" is the loopiest of all, even by Doom standards; its balmy Bobbi Humphrey flute and slippery beat, aided by burbling water effects, backs a hallucinatory journey in which Ghost swims with butterflies, casts his gaze on numerous riches (rubies, the Heart of the Ocean, "Gucci belts that they rocked for no reason from A Different World") and bumps into a Bentley-driving, Isley Brothers-listening, girlfriend-smacking SpongeBob Squarepants before hitting spiritual paydirt. "Back Like That," featuring Ne-Yo, is the lone apparent crossover attempt, and it hardly compromises Ghost's character the way "Tush" did in 2004 ("In the summertime, I broke his jaw -- had to do it to him quick, old fashion, in the back of the mall"). Another completely unique track is "Whip You with a Strap," where Ghost recalls the pain of being whipped by his mom with more than a hint of misty-eyed wistfulness. How many other MCs are capable of making you feel nostalgic about leaking welts you never had? More importantly, how many MCs entering their late-thirties have made an album as vital as any other in his or her career?

tags: ghostface killah, killa, fishscale, fish scale, 2006, flac,

Cappadonna - The Pillage (1998)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1998 Razor Sharp Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
By the time Cappadonna released his solo debut album, The Pillage, in the spring of 1998, the Wu-Tang sound as masterminded by the RZA had become familiar. That's not to say that it was played out, however. The RZA's skeletal, menacing production is bracing even after it's become familiar, which is to Cappadonna's benefit, since The Pillage doesn't really expand the Wu sound any further. With producer cohorts Goldfinghaz and Tru Master, the RZA has re-created his signature sound; while it sounds terrific, it nevertheless will be a little frustrating, since not only does it lack the thrill of the new, but the album isn't as focused as such previous RZA/Wu masterpieces as Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and the Genius' Liquid Swords, which both found individual voices within RZA's sound. Cappadonna, in contrast, is a foot soldier, capable of turning out great songs ("The Pillage," "Splish Splash," "Dart Throwing"), but also capable of just going through the motions. Consequently, The Pillage packs more punch than the average late-'90s hip-hop record, but it doesn't reach the dazzling standards of past Wu classics.

tags: cappadonna, the pillage, 1998, flac,

November 21, 2016

Inspectah Deck - Uncontrolled Substance (1999)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1999 Loud, Relativity Records
AllMusic Review by Matt Conaway
While Deck has always been overshadowed by the more personable bees in his Wu-Tang hive, there is no disputing his messiah-like flow and delivery pure as artesian water. Wu-Tang's diehard fans have always demanded more and Deck gives them just that, as he routinely leaves microphones grotesquely disfigured on his stellar debut. Besides the usual assortment of high-powered street jams usually found on Wu-Tang endeavors, what separates Deck from the next bodega philosopher lays in his disposition, as he also employs his verbal gifts as a tool of enlightenment. He lays out a path to righteousness with "Elevation" and "Show and Prove," while the warm piano chords of "Longevity" details his plans for global domination. Although the man behind Wu's music, RZA, only furnishes two tracks, Deck shows versatility behind the boards as well, handling a majority of the production chores. There is truly no anti-venom on record capable of diluting the Inspecktah's fatal sting once inflicted.

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November 20, 2016

Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II (2009)

*European release. Contains 24 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2009 Ice H2o/EMI Records
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
Like the original, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2 sets the stage with the intro, but here it's some Raekwon history courtesy of Papa Wu. On Pt. 1 it was fictional dialog introducing a loose concept album. Besides the introductory dialog and the album's look-alike cover -- tinted purple, as if it were a Cash Money screwed & chopped mix of Pt. 1 -- the only traits this sequel shares with the original Linx is that it's the Wu rapper in top form, spitting out rhymes worthy of the Wu logo and pushing his guest list to work harder, as evidenced by Ghostface, Jadakiss, and Cappadonna all sounding at the top of their game. The productions are equally magnificent, with Pete Rock, the Alchemist, and even Dr. Dre all living up to their lofty reputations. Inspectah Deck and Wu secret weapon Mathematics out-RZA the RZA on their 36 Chambers-flavored cuts -- the awesome "House of Flying Daggers" and "Mean Streets," respectively -- but if it's possible to create a poignant beat track, it has to be the soulful loop on "Ason Jones," a tribute to Ol' Dirty Bastard made all the more moving when you notice the beat comes from the late J Dilla. Raekwon's lyrical highlights come back to back as "Gihad" slaps the current rap scene for all it's worth while "New Wu," with Ghostface, Method Man, and RZA on production, renews hope that the Wu-Tang dynasty will return with a vengeance. If it looks long at 22 tracks, it'll still leave the Wu heads wanting more. This sequel may have little to do with the original, but if the title helps to point out this is the Shaolin poet's best work since 1995's Pt. 1, then so be it.

tags: raekwon, only built 4 cuban linx part 2, for, 2009, flac,

Raekwon - The Lex Diamond Story (2003)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2003 Universal Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
For his third album, The Lex Diamond Story, Raekwon again evokes the gangsta mythology of his classic debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995), while at the same time stretching out into new territory, to generally impressive results. The Wu-Tang member's previous album, Immobilarity (1999), also stretched out into new territory, but for that very reason the album was met with general indifference, which very well may be the fate of Lex Diamond also. After all, it's no secret: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx had been a masterstroke, not only one of best Wu-Tang albums ever but also one of the best East Coast gangsta albums ever. It was such a masterstroke that Raekwon struggled to follow it up. Perhaps that's why it took him so long to record his follow-ups, taking several years between albums to record Immobilarity and The Lex Diamond Story. Whatever the reason, the wait was worthwhile, for The Lex Diamond Story is a worthwhile album, not a masterstroke but an impressive accomplishment nonetheless. It makes heavy use of cinematic storytelling, framing the album as if it were a gangsta film with Raekwon's Lex Diamond alias as its main character, and a conflicted character at that. It helps, of course, that there are quite a few hot tracks here, particularly "Pit Bull Fights," "All Over Again," and "Once Upon a Time." The album employs a relatively large supporting cast, some good (Ghostface Killah, Method Man, the latter on an "Ice Cream" sequel) and some not so good (Rae's new posse, Ice Water). As all longtime Wu fans will no doubt wonder, RZA is nowhere to be heard here, which is a mixed blessing. Sure, who wouldn't love to see him drop some Cuban Linx-style beats? But at the same time, it's nice to hear Raekwon work with some original sounds from a wide-ranging pool of largely underground production talents. The overall result is a good album, not an especially great one on a par with Cuban Linx but certainly a better one than most other rappers out there were capable of in 2003.

tags: raekwon, the lex diamond story, 2003, flac,

Raekwon - Fly International Luxurious Art (2015)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2015 Ice H2o Records
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
The sixth studio album from Raekwon is conceptually driven by aviation, opulence, and style, blowing his crew the Wu-Tang Clan's classic track "C.R.E.A.M" into a more money-loving, capitalism-accepting suite of songs. Cash rules everything around the rapper, and yet he's got enough of it that the A$AP Rocky feature "I Got Money" taunts the listener with a child's "nyah-nyah-nyah," while "F.I.L.A. World" "comes out of Bank of America/Big knot on me, I'm comfy" because the revolutionary maneuvers Raekwon is working on here mean finding the bank with the best rates. For veteran fans, that might be as irksome as when Ghostface Killah goes full bedroom R&B, but F.I.L.A., the album, loves coming at the topic from all sorts of creative, attractive angles. "Revory (Wraith)" with Ghostface and Rick Ross finds producer Bluerocks offering the same kind of claustrophobic soul music that Wu listeners get from RZA, while Swizz Beatz and Jerry Wonda give "Sound Boy Kill It" a suitably stripped dancehall beat. Adding to the excitement is producer Scoop DeVille, acting as a one-man Bomb Squad with the hectic throwback production he gives the Snoop Dogg feature "1,2 1,2." Put the strong closer "Worst Enemy" on the end and the rapper skillfully returns the listener to the real world with a list of worthwhile grievances. More fine than fierce, Fly International Luxurious Art may not be on the man's top shelf, but it's a sturdy and entertaining effort well worth its place in the Chef's catalog.

tags: raekwon, fly international luxurious art, 2015, flac,

Raekwon - Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang (2011)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2011 Ice H2o/EMI Records
Review by Rolling Stone.com
With 2009's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II, Raekwon managed to conjure a satisfying sequel to one of rap's most hallowed albums. The pressure's off now, and on Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang, Rae sounds at ease — as loquacious as ever, unfurling martial-arts-movie allusions and street-crime narratives in a weave of internal rhymes. ("Lightin' Phillies/Fly-by Willies/Can't come through unless your vehicle 300 chain, silly.") RZA, the production sensei behind Wu-Tang, is absent, but Scram Jones, Bronze Nazareth and others evoke his claustrophobic soundscapes. It's a classic Raekwon record; it sounds like no one else because it sounds so stubbornly like 1995 — still behind the times, and still ahead of the competition.

tags: raekwon, shaolin vs wu tang, 2011, flac,

November 19, 2016

Method Man & Redman - Blackout! (1999)

 
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop

© 1999 Def Jam Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Hip-hop fans have known for years that Method Man and Redman are two of the top MCs in the field, and their tour together not only proved the fact, but also showed they rap incredibly well together. Their deliveries are similar and the flow never falters, but the hint of gravel in Meth's voice makes them easily distinguishable. Now, with Blackout!, the duo's first album together (though both guested on each other's 1998 LPs), listeners have the proof on wax. Skating on top of spare, hard-hitting productions by Erick Sermon, Wu-Tang's RZA, Mathematics, and Redman himself -- under his Reggie Noble alias -- Meth and Redman trade off on hardcore rhymes and freestyle over each other. There's barely room for breath, but the rhymes are tight and inventive throughout. There are only two guest appearances (for Ja Rule & LL Cool J on "4 Seasons" and Ghostface and Street on the hilarious Blair Witch Project send-off "Run 4 Cover"), and the focus on just Meth and Redman makes for an even tighter, more combustible LP. Even with the high expectations that come along with a project of this magnitude, Blackout! rarely disappoints.

tags: method man and redman, blackout, 1999, flac,