May 21, 2019

Then Jerico - First (The Sound of Music) (1987) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave, Pop Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1987 London Records
AllMusic Review by Dan LeRoy
With hype building behind a clutch of successful singles, London quartet Then Jerico made its full-length debut in 1987 with the grandiosely titled First (The Sound of Music). The album, mostly produced by Owen Davies, actually featured a sound common in the mid- to late '80s: massive backbeats married to the big guitars that had come back into vogue. Atop it all sat the impassioned, warbling vocals of Mark Shaw, whose haircut and cheekbones made him a strong contender for the U.K.'s leading pinup of the moment. But the group wanted to be seen as a band -- and taken seriously -- and First wasn't about to turn into any crass chart cash in. Somewhat ironically, however, the best songs on the album are the poppiest -- like "Blessed Days," bolstered with synth horns and female backing vocals; the mildly funky "A Quiet Place (Apathy and Sympathy"; and the soulful rocker "The Motive (Living Without You)." Retreating from that territory sometimes brought too much guitar bluster from Scott Taylor and pushed Shaw's voice past the point of pleasurable listening (see "Stable Boy"), while a presentable cover of Roxy Music's "Prairie Rose" sounded like the work of musicians intent on proving their credentials to a doubtful public. But uneven as it is, the best parts of the album are enjoyable enough to make it more than just an '80s novelty, while the three extended remixes (of "Let Her Fall," "Prairie Rose," and "The Motive") appended to the American CD issue add another reason to seek it out.

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Then Jerico - The Big Area (1989)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1989 London Records
AllMusic Review by Dan LeRoy
The second -- and, as far as most listeners were concerned, final -- album from London's Then Jerico stands as the group's defining moment, containing their biggest hit (the rousing, synth-rocking title track) and best presentation, courtesy of former Roxy Music producer Rhett Davies. His polished, sweeping soundscapes match the band's anthemic songwriting well, even if they do remove some of the live excitement that was also a staple of Then Jerico's appeal. The highs here are higher than on First (The Sound of Music), as singer Mark Shaw turns "Sugar Box" into the sort of epic ballad that eluded him previously, and overall is much less mannered than on the band's debut. As for the lows, there are less of them (the album clocks in at a reasonable 40 minutes), and Davies turns any potential problem spots -- having Belinda Carlisle match Shaw warble for warble on "What Does It Take" probably wasn't the best idea -- into very listenable, likeable arena rock. Not surprisingly, the album was very successful, although the group disbanded after touring behind it. Shaw later recruited a new Then Jerico lineup in the late 90's and released a third album, Orgasmaphobia.

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Sharpe & Numan - Automatic (1989) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave, Synth Pop
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1989 Polydor Records
AllMusic Review by Michael Sutton
Somehow Automatic has become the most overlooked album in Gary Numan's discography. A collaboration with Bill Sharpe (keyboards, producer), this album isn't as groundbreaking as Numan's earlier work. There's nothing futuristic about this; it's an LP that echoes the predominant sound of England in the mid-'80s, specifically the mix of synth pop and soul brewed by bands like the Human League and Heaven 17. Automatic really moves; there's not a wasted moment. The catchy "Change Your Mind" should've been a bigger hit than "Cars"; driven by Roger Odell's vigorous drums and Sharpe's disco-fueled synthesizers, "Change Your Mind" latches onto a sweltering groove. Sharpe & Numan never deplete themselves of hooks. "No More Lies ('89 Mix)," "Breathe in Emotion," and "Voices" are just as addictive as "Change Your Mind." Numan is as moody as ever, however, he expresses more emotion here than before. The frosty detachment of "Cars" and "Down in the Park" is absent. In addition, anyone expecting sci-fi or supernatural concepts in the lyrics will be let down; the songs on Automatic are aimed at broken hearts. Nevertheless, Sharpe & Numan never allow the feelings of dejection to corrode the album's pace. Sharpe & Numan only slow the tempo on the reflective ballad "Welcome to Love." Numan has never sounded more human than on this album.

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May 20, 2019

Berlin - Pleasure Victim (1982)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1982-1987 Geffen/Enigma Records
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason
Originally released by the fledgling Enigma Records in 1982 and picked up by Geffen in early 1983 when the lascivious novelty single "Sex (I'm A...)" started picking up radio attention, Pleasure Victim is a frankly exploitative little slab of synth pop cynicism, so baldly crass in its positioning of lead singer Terri Nunn as a sex kitten (posing her in the nude on the inner sleeve, listing her contributions as "vocals, bj's" in the liner notes) and lyrically obsessed with the seedy side of the Los Angeles demimonde that criticism becomes nearly beside the point. Lyrical obsessions aside, Pleasure Victim actually holds up quite well as a piece of early-'80s synth pop, with two very good tunes ("Tell Me Why" and "Masquerade") and one masterpiece of the genre, the gimmicky and atmospheric "The Metro," the one song where Nunn's limited vocal abilities are put to their best use. The other three songs (not to mention the tiresome eight-minute remix of "Sex" on the cassette and CD versions) are much weaker, but surprisingly, for a record that was completely unfashionable seemingly within months of its initial release, Pleasure Victim actually has more to offer than many might remember.

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Berlin - Count Three & Pray (1986)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop Rock, Pop
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© 1986 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
A major change of direction for Berlin, Count Three & Pray was an artistic triumph but a commercial disappointment. After making a name for itself playing very European-sounding synth pop, the L.A. trio recruited producer Bob Ezrin (known for his work with Alice Cooper and others) and unveiled a more hard-edged, guitar-oriented sound. From the rockin' "Trash" (which features none other than Ted Nugent -- the last person one would expect to work with Berlin!) to the ballad "Pink and Velvet" (a tale of two heroin addicts' romance that is as poignant as it is disturbing), Count Three & Pray leaves no doubt just how much lead singer Terri Nunn and her colleagues were enjoying this radical change. But sadly, record buyers weren't ready for it. Despite the inclusion of the hauntingly pretty number one hit "Take My Breath Away" (included in the film Top Gun) the album didn't sell nearly as well as Pleasure Victim or Love Life. Geffen was bitterly disappointed, and Berlin soon broke up.

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Oh No - The Disrupt (2004)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2004 Stone Throw Records
AllMusic Review by Joshua Glazer
In movies, successful siblings are a rule (Baldwin, Sheen, Olsen). In music, they're less common (Jessica and Ashlee Simpson don't really count), and in hip-hop, well, it's virtually unheard of (though the Ying Yang Twins make a gold-fronted argument). But even still, coming up with your bro is different from coming up behind him, and Oh No is aware of the challenge he's facing, caught as he will naturally be in brother Madlib's significant shadow. And the fact that he chose to release his debut album on Stones Throw, the label that has become the stronghold for Madlib's seemingly infinite beat-making talent is more daunting still. So does Oh No pull it off? Depends. If the goal was to distinguish himself from his brother, than the answer is no, as Oh No's dusty beats bear the mark of siblings come before. Although, several of his productions, including "Perceptions" and "Take Another," stand out from (if not up against) Madlib's with their smoother G-funk sound. But if the goal was to simply make a solid hip-hop album in the growing tradition of Stones Throw releases, then The Disrupt is a success. "Stomp That, V.2" galumphs ahead with a cadence not unlike Jaylib's awesome "McNasty Filth", while the Medaphoar-led "Ride" grooves with patented double-handclaps and a video game-inspired melody that avoids being kitschy (although it could have been more original). The Disrupt is by no means perfect. "I Can't Help Myself" features Stacy Epps in a vocal performance that sounds like an unfinished rehearsal tape and there's a similarly incomplete toy-keyboard melody. But taken in the context of hip-hop as a whole, Oh No is like a lawyer in a family of doctors. Not quite as admirable, but certainly no slacker. [The album was released with bonus tracks.]

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Oh No - Exodus Into Unheard Rhythms (2006)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2006 Stone Throw Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
The beats on the first album by Madlib's brother, Oh No, proved that you can't consider nepotism to explain why he was recording for Stones Throw, one of the best hip-hop labels in America. Oh No's lyrics and delivery, however, were another matter. Resting uncomfortably between the aggression of mainstream hardcore and the cerebral bent of most underground rap, Oh No failed to get a response from either audience. No wonder, then, that the best tracks on The Disrupt featured guest vocals -- from Stones Throw mainstays Wildchild and MED. On the surface, Oh No's second album, Exodus into Unheard Rhythms, sounds like a much better proposition, not least because every track has a guest rapper (and some great ones, too). Oh No also produced the entire record using only samples from Galt MacDermot, one of the more unlikely heroes in hip-hop. MacDermot, the man who brought the world "Good Morning Starshine" (he co-authored Hair), also occupies a similar chair to David Axelrod and Quincy Jones for his contributions to beat-based music (soundtracks including Cotton Comes to Harlem, orchestral works, and a series of albums with his New Pulse band that featured Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, Wilbur Bascomb, and Idris Muhammad). Oh No has only improved as a producer, making the usual audio-detritus loops -- vocal samples, a horn hook, three and a half notes from a string section -- extraordinarily funky, in a style that recalls Kanye West as much as Madlib. But even with help from a talented cast (Murs, Posdnuos, Cali Agents aka Rasco and Planet Asia, AG, Vast Aire), the productions far outshine the raps. Oh No confederates Aloe Blacc, Roc C, and Frank N Dank are not in the same league with his productions, and with a total of 21 features, there are no chances to concentrate on the excellent beats. Exodus into Unheard Rhythms would have fared much better with the occasional instrumental.

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Oh No - Dr. No's Oxperiment (2007)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop, Instrumental
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© 2007 Stone Throw Records
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown
Following in the tradition of other notable producers, Oh No flexes his talent on his third solo release, the beat record Dr. No's Oxperiment. Inspired by and sampled from Turkish, Lebanese, Italian, and Greek psychedelic rock, the album is much more melodic and full-sounding than anything Madlib might do, but Oh No's always been more tune-driven, and less concerned with jolty, sparse beats (though that kind of thing occasionally makes its way here) than his brother, and so looking for Beat Konducta Jr. material here would be a misguided approach. Dr. No's Oxperiment ends up sounding a lot more like a DJ Shadow or RJD2 album than something by Dilla or the Alchemist, the 28 tracks (all of which are under two minutes) working together to complete the whole, a kind of warm, nearly-poppy, guitar-filled trip into Middle Eastern chants, tight bass grooves, and drums that hover beneath the surface. That's one of Oh No's greatest talents, in fact: his ability to mix the different elements of his compositions so that none of them stick out too much but are all completely present, important and perceptible. The kick, the snare, are both there, are keeping the tracks in line, but unless an overt attempt is made to pick them out, they blend so cleanly into the strings, the keys, the vocal samples, that they're sometimes hard to hear. And unlike his brother, Oh No is not afraid of major keys and poppy chord progressions, even occasionally venturing into something that's vaguely catchy, and not just the avant-garde left-field modal wanderings that so dominate Madlib's beats. It's not that Oh No is a less advanced producer than his brother, it's just that he focuses on different things: inclusion instead of obscurity, harmony instead of atonality. Dr. No's Oxperiment is a beat album, that much is sure, but it's more than that, it's more than music for the obsessed crate digger. It's rich and vibrant, like a marketplace, crates of oranges and nuts and olives sitting in the shade, the sound of vendors hacking their wares, everything necessary to the proceedings around it, a perfectly orchestrated expedition into an exotic landscape that somehow, at the same time, feels very, very familiar, all of which makes the record an exciting and very satisfying listen.

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Prince Po & Oh No - Animal Serum (2014)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2014 Green Streets Entertainment
Review by Jay Balfour for Hip HopDX.com
In a few months, Hip Hop will begin officially celebrating the 20th anniversary of a handful of albums that helped characterize the ‘90s. In April, the web will almost certainly be flooded by Illmatic and Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik features, and September might as well be Ready to Die month. By comparison, Organized Konfusion’s Stress: The Extinction Agenda, which was released in August of the same year, will probably fetch a little less consideration. Still, and noticeably as their sophomore release, Stress found both emcees at their very best and has rightfully endured as an underground classic.
The group rang in their milestone early last month with a performance of the album in Brooklyn, and Prince Po’s latest record fittingly carves out a spot for Pharoahe Monch as well. If only for the amount of music he’s released since OK’s last album, Monch has paved the more noticed path in the industry. But Prince Po, after quietly dropping an album in 2012 to break a six-year dry spell, has chosen a good time to team up with Oh No.
The lead single, “Toxic,” is a fair cross section of the album’s grimier side with its dark piano loop and marching beat. Both emcees kick imaginatively violent scenarios that hinge on their own abstract brags: “Lethal injections in ya veins, I’m a prophet / Sulfuric acid setting into your brains it’s acrostic.” Oh No’s verse, which is his only on the album, manages to follow up Po nicely thanks to a surprisingly agile flow and some clever references (including a Heisenberg-like ricin threat). While Oh No’s production is never laid-back, not all of the album is as forward as “Toxic.” “Machine Rages,” with its more politically channeled anger on Po’s end, kicks off the release at a tensely slow pace in comparison.
The rest of the album’s features are spread out over four songs, but Monch’s appearance on “Smash,” with Stress collaborator OC alongside as well, is an obvious pick for the album’s most gratifying reunion. Particularly given the somewhat focused subject matter, the song is thankfully more than just a space for nostalgia, but OC does hark back in his verse. “Allow me to do my thing / Career long as Yao Ming’s arm length / The tale of the tape reaches far beyond so / Let’s be honest / My team mix-matched with legal dudes and convicts,” he raps. Monch’s third verse is a practice in his fragmented but on-beat style. “If she’s intelligent she’ll increase my diction / Pulp Fiction / Cult flick / Hulk..smash / Culprit, passion / Adult Swim, brash,” he raps.
Throughout the album, both Oh No and Prince Po pull off a thematically aggressive project without being too one-dimensional. Prince switches lanes from lyricism for its own sake to cautionary tales and political raps and Oh No’s production maintains its grittiness without relying on the same sounds over and over. On “Where U Eat” and elsewhere, he builds up a brooding effect with repetitive synths, but hard-hitting sample chops achieve a similar feel on “Givitup.” As a whole, the album is balanced enough, but it does end up striking the same note at least one times too many. Still, with the first two singles previewing the release’s harder sound, listeners can expect a little more range than they allow. Prince Po’s lyrical appeal has never been his simplicity, but Animal Serum isn’t a demanding listen either. With the added allure of Oh No’s consistency, Po has plotted a convincing resurgence.

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Eels - Shootenanny! (2003)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 2003 DreamWorks Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Of the legions of artists and characters to emerge in the great alt-rock explosion of the '90s, the man called E is one of the oddest, partially because he's etched a career that is both doggedly obstinate and strangely predictable. Throughout his career, E has followed his muse wherever it takes him -- it just happens to take him to places that seem familiar. Just as the alt-rock circus kicked off in 1992, he released A Man Called (E) to little more than power pop acclaim, but once he formed an ad-hoc band called the Eels in 1996, he gained a hit with "Novocaine for the Soul" and earned a cult following that he sustained into the 21st century when, once again, he was a one-man band, only this time retaining the commercial cache (or at least recognition) that came with the Eels' name. His 2003 effort, Shootenanny!, is the first where he doesn't make much of a pretense of this being a band affair -- the notes say it's "performed by Mark Oliver Everett (you can call him 'E')" -- and it does not seem like a coincidence that it's also his best album since his dark night of the soul, 1998's Electro-Shock Blues. In many ways, it's a lot more listenable, since the doom that hangs over that album makes it a little impenetrable. This has a sour temper and a black humor, as well as a general sense of self-satisfied gloominess, but he's more tongue-in-cheek about it these days, as the impish title suggests. This record isn't folky, the way hootenannies were, but it does have a strong blues and singer/songwriter element to the record. Since he's been saddled with this comparison countless times, it feels both trite and unfair to say he often sounds like Beck on Shootenanny!, but he does -- he sounds like a combination of Beck and Tom Waits, put through a power pop prism. So, even if it isn't entirely original, it is an appealing sound, but E has turned into a good editor, trimming away his excesses, emphasizing both his hooks and his atmosphere, and bringing it all in at 40 minutes. It's not as poppy as some of his other albums, but it is more focused and appealing, and one of the stronger testaments to his ornery talents.

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Hi-Tek - Hi-Teknology³: Underground (2007)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2007 Babygrande Records
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown
The title of Hi-Tek's third solo album hardly differs from that of his first or second (Hi-Teknology and Hi-Teknology 2, respectively), and for the most part, Hi-Teknology 3 follows a similar musical path. As with the other records, the producer is given a lot of space to show his versatility, making beats that work under both hardcore and conscious MCs, as well as neo-soul and R&B singers, tailoring his music to fit each artist appropriately. The problem, however, is that the guests he aligns to fill his vocal spots aren't that impressive, and make the album seem more like the work of a lesser producer who can't quite convince the big-time MCs he's worth their time than one of hip-hop's more gifted beatmakers. While the generally tight duo of Ghostface and Raekwon put up acceptable verses on "My Piano" (which, ironically enough, is guitar-based), Little Brother hardly gets any space on the Dion- (a singer also featured prominently on Volume 2) heavy "Step Ya Game Up Remix," and unknown rappers Rem Dog and Push Montana spit pretty basic, uninspiring rhymes that weaken the quality of the music underneath. Hi-Tek himself has some misses as well, like the very "Oh I Think They Like Me"-esque "Handling My Business" (whose hook actually contains the line "I think they hate me"), "Ohio All Stars," which tries much too hard to sound tough -- although, to give Tek some credit, he never completely falls into cheap mixtape synth clichés -- or "Know Me," an R&B track sung by someone named Jonell that drags on painfully, which can probably partially be blamed on the fact that Floetry's Marsha Ambrosius is a co-writer. In his attempts to display everything he can do, he loses the subtle touches that define his work, and so it is of no surprise the track that features longtime collaborator Talib Kweli, "Time," features the best beats on Hi-Teknology 3, and finds him sounding the most comfortable. It's not that Tek can't or shouldn't branch out -- because he absolutely should -- but that he has the reputation and talent to be more discerning in his MC choices, and needs to employ this benefit in order to keep himself relevant.

tags: hi tek, hi-tek, hi teknology 3 underground, 2007, flac,

Rah Digga - Dirty Harriet (2000)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap, Pop Rap
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© 2000 Elektra Records
AllMusic Review by Matt Conaway
In the hip-hop arena, female MCs have usually been overshadowed by their predominantly male counterparts. While it has taken a decade for Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Lauryn Hill to earn respect, the wave of scantily clad MCs that followed in their footsteps have transgressed, as these leading ladies are more renowned for their curvaceous figures then their lyrical endowments.
Leading Busta Rhymes Flipmode Squad into a new millennium, Rah Digga's debut, Dirty Harriet, proves why she is an exception to the rule. While Digga's verses are replete with an endless array of colorful metaphors, she proves to be more then a punchline MC, showing diversity over the signature horn loops of Pete Rock on "What They Call Me" and the choppy Premier laced "Lessons of Today." Regardless of gender, what is most intriguing about Digga's debut lays in her ability to transcend genres, as "Tight" and "Imperial" (with Busta Rhymes) are both commercially viable records that any bedroom DJ would actually admit to spinning.

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Hi-Tek - Hi-Teknology (2001) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2001 Rawkus Records
AllMusic Review by Matt Conaway
Since breaking in quietly with fellow Cincinnati residents Mood in the mid-'90s, DJ Hi-Tek's climb up the crate-digging ranks has been a slow one. While Hi-Tek garnished some well-overdue exposure for his work on Black Star's debut, and with running mate Talib Kweli on their critically acclaimed Reflection Eternal endeavor, his name is still rarely mentioned when discussing hip-hop's new class of promising beatsmiths. However, Hi-Tek's debut, Hi-Teknology, should change that. While Tek collaborates mostly with many familiar faces, he adds a few new wrinkles to his organic compositions, roughing up his trusted MPC-3000 on Cormega's "All I Need Is You" and for the sinister "The Illest It Gets," which features Black Moon's Buckshot. Yet, the heart and soul of Hi-Teknology resides with those who Tek has already developed a solid working relationship with. Talib Kweli and Tek re-solidify their chemistry with "Get Back, Pt. 2," and Common enters the fold, with the lyrically enriched "Sun God," as his introspective lyrics emanate with a Marvin Gaye-like quality. Similarly, just as enticing is "Git to Steppin'," as Mos Def and Vinia Mojica body rock in perfect unison to Tek's sensuous organ arrangement. Though Hi-Teknology follows no discernible path, it is a grab bag of aural treats that enables Tek to display the full range of his production prowess. While Hi-Tek has yet to generate a mainstream buzz, Hi-Teknology is just the latest step he has taken to claim his rightful spot among hip-hop's elite soundboys.

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Del Amitri - Del Amitri (1985) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1985 Chrysalis/EMI Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Schnee
Sounding like a gang of snotty pop antagonists, Del Amitri came out swinging on this quirky and often brilliant debut. Vocalist Justin Currie's lyrics were intelligent and witty, laced with sarcasm and venom. With jaunty rhythms and quirky melodies, calling them the bastard sons of XTC and Elvis Costello would not have been too far off the mark. Highlights include "Sticks and Stones Girl" and "Hammering Heart."

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Del Amitri - Waking Hours (1989) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1989 A&M Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Schnee
After four years in hibernation, Del Amitri emerged as a gang of mature pop stars. Dropping their edgy quirkiness, Justin Currie and the boys explored their Scottish folk roots, refashioned their sound, and quickly established themselves as a rock band with heart. Still retaining a bit of the Elvis Costello musical heritage, Del Amitri added a dose of Elvis Presley (check out Currie's sideburns!) and a healthy chunk of Van Morrison. This time, the critics flocked in droves, and the public started to take notice. Highlights include "Nothing Ever Happens," "Stone Cold Sober," and "Kiss This Thing Goodbye."

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Beanie Sigel - The Truth (2000)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap, Pop Rap
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© 2000 Roc-A-Fella Records
AllMusic Review by Matt Conaway
In 1998, Philadelphia native Beanie Sigel was just another hungry voice in the crowd. However, after an impromptu verse on the Roots' Adrenaline, he caught the attention of Jay-Z, who quickly inked the young MC to a deal with his Roc-A-Fella empire. While the momentum of a few dazzling collaborations catapulted his meteoric rise up the hip-hop ranks, more importantly it showed an MC who was on the cusp of greatness. Beanie's debut, The Truth, is the culmination of that promise. While Beanie's monosyllabic flow is methodical and offers little variation, his lyrics are remarkably detailed. "What Ya Life Like" is such a frightening depiction of incarceration that it warrants inclusion in any Scared Straight documentary. Also, Beanie ingeniously parallels the life of a drug dealer to that of video-game characters on "Mac Man." Although Beanie is not ready to supplant his esteemed mentor, Jay-Z, he is one of the most intriguing lyricists to emerge in the post-2Pac era

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Del Amitri - Can You Do Me Good? (2002)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock, Alternative Rock
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© 2002 A&M/Mercury Records
AllMusic Review by Matt Conaway
There certainly is a randy sentiment within the title of Del Amitri's sixth album, something that suggests seduction and romance, and the band does follow through on the promise of Can You Do Me Good? -- at least to a certain extent. From the moment the opening track, "Just Before You Leave," begins, it's clear that there is a subtle smooth soul vibe here, taken partially from Al Green and Marvin Gaye. This doesn't mean that this is a soul record, but that spirit certainly informs much of this record, even though the band never really abandons the clean, sweet, melodic spirit that informs all their work. They even rock a little harder, as on "Wash Her Away," but not so much to change the spirit or attitude of the album, which remains very similar to all Del Amitri records -- apart from that sultry soul feeling that seeps through on enough of the tracks to give it a distinctive character. And that's quite welcome, actually.

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May 19, 2019

Royce Da 5'9'' - Rock City (2002)

*This is the original and now out of print release of this album. This version contains 14 tracks total. This album would later be re-released in the same year as "Rock City 2.0" with a new cover and 15 tracks total.
 Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
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© 2002 Game/Colombia Records
AllMusic Review by Bradley Torreano
Finally arriving with a full-length after appearing on records with Eminem, Dr. Dre, Method Man, DJ Premier, and even Willa Ford, Royce da 5'9" makes the most of his growing exposure on Rock City [Version 2.0]. The disc was meant for release in 2000, but after label intervention and multiple problems with the final product, it took a massive overhaul of the tracks and production to arrive at the final version of Rock City, hence the subtitle [Version 2.0]. But the wait was worth it, as Eminem's old hype-man steps out of his friend's shadow on the awesome tracks here. Boasting a voice like vintage LL Cool J but without the grit, Royce tells intriguing tales of self-reflection that have become a staple of Detroit MCs. His smooth delivery is complemented by the liquid funk production, carrying his vocals over a bed of bouncing beats and sensual synths courtesy of DJ Premier and the Neptunes, among others. The rollicking hometown anthem "Rock City" includes Eminem on the snappy chorus, but the verses are pure Royce as he waxes philosophical his role in the Motor City scene. The funky "Mr. Baller" brings the Clipse and Pharrell Williams into the picture, and Royce holds his own and more against the production mastermind and his protégés. And "Boom" was fantastic as a single, but the new album version reveals what a multi-layered masterpiece DJ Premier put together for the Detroit MC. But most tracks don't necessarily stand out on Rock City; instead they act more as a pieces of a complete picture of an MC that is still actively connected to the underground. From the beats to his rhyming style, Royce rarely attempts to do anything that resembles commercial rap. The awesome "Take His Life" is a perfect example; the harsh beat and sparse piano samples carry Royce's thoughtful defense of his murder fantasies with an eerie clarity, but despite being one of the best songs on the album, it could never survive as a single. This is rarely a detriment, although a few tracks suffer from being indistinct because of his attitude towards hooks and poppy touches. But when the songs are as powerful as "Soldier's Story," it's hard to argue with his method. Royce had been unfairly labeled as an Eminem creation in the past, but Rock City [Version 2.0] reveals an exciting voice that has little in common with his former running buddy. Instead, he brings the underground to the mainstream and crafts an album that isn't perfect, but is an endearingly gruff, dense, and promising debut.

tags: royce da 5'9, 59, rock city, 2002, flac,

Del Amitri - Change Everything (1992) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1992 A&M Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Schnee
Contrary to the album's title, the Dels kept on doing what they were doing and released an even better album than Waking Hours. Although the songs here were not as good as any individual song from their past, the album as a whole was their best yet.

tags: del amitri, change everything, 1992, flac,

Del Amitri - Twisted (1995)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
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© 1995 A&M Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Schnee
Taking a tiny step backwards, Del Amitri did not top their previous outing this time, but they remained true to their musical cause. The fact that they sound a bit tired may mean that it is time to re-evaluate their journey

tags: del amitri, twisted, 1995, flac,

Del Amitri - Some Other Sucker's Parade (1997) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1997 A&M Records
Review by Matt Collar for Allmusic.com
Twisted unexpectedly generated an American Top Ten hit for Del Amitri with "Roll to Me." Not surprisingly, that song provides the touchstone for Some Other Sucker's Parade, the follow-up to Twisted. Like that record, Some Other Sucker's Parade isn't that different from Del Amitri's other records -- it's a collection of pleasant, jangly guitar-pop, with nice melodies and gentle hooks. It doesn't offer anything new, but that's not bad, because the group's music is appealing as it is. Some Other Sucker's Parade won't win Del Amitri any new fans, but to longtime followers, it's a welcome addition to their library.

tags: del amitri, some other suckers parade, 1997, flac,

May 18, 2019

Blindside - Blindside (1997)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Post Hardcore, NĂŒ-Metal
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© 1997 Solid State/Tooth & Nail Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
The self-titled debut from Sweden's Blindside is largely in the vein of American rap-metal acts like Rage Against the Machine and 311, but the band has a melodic side too, and their Christian lyrics set them apart from the pack.

tags: blindside, blind side, blindside album, 1997, flac,