May 31, 2019

Various Artists - A Low Down Dirty Shame (The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (1994) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B, Hip-Hop
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☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 1994 Jive Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The soundtrack to the urban comedy A Low Down Dirty Shame is a by-the-books collection of urban soul, hip-hop, and new jack R&B. It's well-produced -- the entire album sounds good -- but there is a noticeable lack of memorable material, leaving the record as nothing but a pleasant genre exercise.

tags: various artists, a low down dirty shame, the original motion picture soundtrack, ost, 1994, flac,

Various Artists - Caught Up: Music From The Motion Picture (1998)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop, R&B
Style: Gangsta Rap, Pop Rap
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© 1998 Noo Tybe Records
AllMusic Review by Leo Stanley
The soundtrack to the action film Caught Up is a 13-track collection of hardcore and gangsta rap, intercut with a couple of urban R&B tracks. Many of the tracks are collaborations between stars, such as Snoop Doggy Dogg & Kurupt, Az with Jermaine Dupri, the Luniz with Crooked I, and KRS-One, Mad Lion and Shaggy. While there are no true standouts on the record, the overall quality of the music is surprisingly high, making it a worthwhile purchase for dedicated gangsta fans.

tags: various artists, caught up, music from the motion picture, ost, soundtrack, 1998, flac,

Various Artists - Office Space: Motion Picture Soundtrack (1999)

Country: U.S.A.
Language: English, Spanish (Español)
Genre: Hip-Hop, R&B, Mambo
Style: Gangsta Rap, Pop Rap
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© 1999 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by Adam Bregman
The soundtrack to a hilarious comedy directed by Mike Judge of Beavis & Butthead fame, the Office Space soundtrack features a slew of old school gangsta rap tunes, as well as newer rap songs composed specifically for this soundtrack. Office Space concerned the hell of wage slavery, a torturous lifetime spent in cubicles and retail establishments with little hope of escape. In the movie, a group of lowly employees take on the man in various symbolic and humorous ways. Despite being damn funny and smartly written, Office Space wasn't a big hit at the box office. As impressive as the movie is its gangsta rap-heavy sound. Undoubtedly, Judge, who helped produce the soundtrack with Karyn Rachtman, is no novice when it comes to hip-hop. The soundtrack (and the movie in one incredibly silly scene) features a forgotten gangsta rap masterpiece from Scarface, "No Tears," where Scarface issues mad threats against some unnamed foes and drops bombs on everything in sight. It's one of the hardest-sounding tunes that gangsta rap ever gave birth to. Then there are a couple of knockout numbers from Scarface's former group, the Geto Boys: "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta" and "Still." They've uncovered an overlooked, smoothly delivered cruising tune from Ice Cube, "Down for Whatever," which is atypically mellow for him. A couple of newer tunes having to do with the anti-work theme -- "Shove This Jay-Oh-Bee" from Canibus and Biz Markie, which incorporates bits from "Take This Job and Shove It," and Lisa Stone's decent cover of Dolly Parton's "9-5" -- are wedged in between all the old school numbers. Hollywood movies often feature hip-hop soundtracks, but rarely with a group of songs as fierce-sounding as these.

tags: various artists, office space motion picture soundtrack, ost, the soundtrack, 1999, flac,

May 30, 2019

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - Crush (1985)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop
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© 1985 A&M Records
AllMusic Review by Dave Connolly
The lightweight synthesizer pop of Crush represents a nearly complete reinvention of the band's original ideals, trading in the influence of Ultravox and Kraftwerk for the more contemporary fare offered up by The The, Howard Jones, et al. From a commercial standpoint, the move paid off, breaking the band into the U.S. Top 40 on the strength of singles like "So in Love" and "Secret." Anyone looking for signs of OMD's original identity, however, will have to settle for "Joan of Arc" rewritten as a pop song ("La Femme Accident," arguably the album's most pleasant moment), some interesting patterns on "Crush" and "The Lights Are Going Out" that recall Dazzle Ships, the relatively edgy "88 Seconds in Greensboro," and shades of Brian Eno's "Third Uncle" on "The Native Daughters of the Golden West." Switching horses in midstream does allow OMD to cultivate a new audience without losing their U.K. listeners, but it also invites the suggestion that Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys were stylemongers rather than electronic visionaries. Producer Stephen Hague keeps the arrangements clean and simple, so much so that it's difficult to hear what (if anything) Martin Cooper and Malcolm Holmes contribute to the final product. Unfortunately, given the lyrics on this album, OMD picked the wrong time to be intelligible (and including a lyric sheet is just begging for trouble). The words to "Crush," "Bloc Bloc Bloc," "Hold On," and "Secret" reveal that melodies really are their strong suit. Crush offers very little of substance; maybe that's always been the case with OMD, and earlier albums simply masked it better by taking the road less traveled.

tags: omd, orchestral manoeuvres in the dark, crush, 1985, flac,

ABC - How To Be a... Zillionaire! (1985)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop
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© 1985 Mercury/Phonogram
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Moving away from the guitar histrionics of Beauty Stab, Martin Fry reduced ABC to a duo of himself and Mark White for 1985's danceable How to Be a...Zillionaire! Incorporating light hip-hop rhythms, ABC made sure Zillionaire sounded contemporary for mid-'80s dance clubs, and as a result, some of the record sounds stiff and dated. Still, when Fry's sense of melody is on, as on the catchy single "Be Near Me," or when he works in his vicious, cynical wit, as on "How to Be a Millionaire" and "So Hip It Hurts," the record rivals the peaks of Lexicon of Love.

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ABC - Alphabet City (1987)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop
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© 1987 Mercury Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Returning to the Motown and Northern soul that provided the basis of their debut album, ABC turned to the pop songcraft on their fifth album, Alphabet City. The increased songcraft is certainly engaging, particularly on the hit "When Smokey Sings," but the songs are usually indistinguishable from each other, resulting in a sleek, stylish, and thoroughly entertaining album that leaves no lasting memory.

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Sham & The Professor - Split Personalities (1995)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1995 Freeze/Priority Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: sham and the professor, split personalities, 1995, flac,

Econoline Crush - Affliction (1995)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Industrial Rock
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© 1995 Nettwerk
AllMusic Review by Vincent Jeffries
Sounding something like a mechanized, tame version of countrymen Tea Party, Econoline Crush dropped their sophomore outing in 1995 for EMI Canada as well as Nettwerk Records in the States. Similar to the group's other efforts, Affliction accents the more repetitive qualities of industrial- and pop-flavored alt-rock. The resulting "Nine Inch Pilots" amalgam is tuneful, if not entirely gratifying. The derivative title cut, "Blunt," and many others eclipse more promising numbers like the post-punk-influenced "Close." Vague lyrics are confused with stark poetry in a vain attempt to approximate influential '90s rockers like Nirvana, contributing to a manufactured, antiseptic tone on Affliction. Aggro-alternative completists might enjoy this release, as it is Econoline Crush's darkest and heaviest, but fans left unenthused by the slew of post-Downward Spiral also-rans needn't bother with this Canadian industrial export.

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Econoline Crush - The Devil You Know (1997)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Industrial Rock
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© 1997 Restless Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
On Econoline Crush's third full-length, The Devil You Know, the band has issued their best album yet. It could very well prove to be their big U.S. breakthrough (they're already stars in Canada), since the majority of the tracks would fit very nicely on late-'90s alternative radio. On past E.C. albums, the lyrical subject matter was often message-oriented, and this is no exception. Singer Trevor Hurst's lyrics tackle such serious topics as AIDS, friends who betray, and doomed personal relationships. Producer Sylvia Massey (Prince, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tool, etc.) helped the band improve their textured rock, which makes the songs' melodic hooks even sharper. After hearing the leadoff track "Surefire," and you'll know the style that Econonline Crush specializes in -- buzzing guitars, frenetic drumming, vocals that alternate between sung and screamed, and subtle electronic experiments. And there are plenty of other compositions that meet the former's standards: the explosive dance-rocker "Sparkle and Shine," the melodic, almost Prodigy-like "Home," and the overtly aggressive "Burnt."

tags: econoline crush, the devil you know, 1997, flac,

Street Life - Street Education (2005)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
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© 2005 X-Ray Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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Econoline Crush - Brand New History (2001)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Industrial Rock, Post Grunge
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© 2001 Restless Records
AllMusic Review by Don Kline
After receiving a nomination for a Juno award (the Canadian equivalent of an American Grammy award) for their debut album, Purge, Econoline Crush released The Devil You Know, a dynamic follow-up which quickly went gold in their native Canada. Following its release, the band began rehearsing for their U.S. tour and readied themselves to compete with the Filter's and Stabbing Westward's of America. Unfortunately, the success they enjoyed in their homeland didn't follow them stateside, despite the addition of the video for "Home" to MTV's "Buzz Bin." Three years later, the band enlisted legendary producer Bob Rock (Metallica, Mötley Crüe, Aerosmith) and DJ Swamp (Beck) to help them craft an even more accessible blend of industrial rock and pop for Brand New History. Although the lyrics on the album ring a bit too familiar with those from the band's past releases, Brand New History proves to be a solid musical affair. While "Make It Right," "You Don't Know What It's Like," and "Flamethrower" take full advantage of Rock's experience in producing hard rock's elite, slower cuts like "By the Riverside" (co-written by former Nine Inch Nails drummer/producer Chris Vrenna) also entertain while serving to pace the album. Although they haven't strayed too far from the foundation they laid on The Devil You Know and Purge, Econoline Crush has returned with a strong follow-up that showcases their more polished performance and improved songwriting.

tags: econoline crush, brand new history, 2001, flac,

May 29, 2019

Del Tha Funkee Homosapien - I Wish My Brother George Was Here (1991)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1991 Elektra Records
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas
When an 18-year-old Del Tha Funkee Homosapien came on the scene in 1991, hip-hop was still younger than he was, and without many defined blueprints. His cousin Ice Cube had done well for himself inventing gangsta rap with his N.W.A. cronies, well enough to help Del snag a record deal by lending his name as executive producer. Meanwhile on the east coast, artists from the Native Tongues collective like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest were offsetting the harshness of west coast gangstaism with Afro-centric positivity and Blue Note records samples. Informed by both of these two disparate worlds but aspiring to neither entered fresh-faced Del with I Wish My Brother George Was Here. A benchmark debut doused with humor, good-natured wit, and more P-Funk samples than possibly any record before it (even the title is a reference to George Clinton), Brother George brewed up an unprecedented mixture of irreverent fun and funky production values which would make the album a blueprint for underground hip-hop to come. Despite Ice Cube's involvement, Del went off script of the harsh West Coast take on inner city life, opting instead for a more mellow view. Breezy rhymes about deadbeat friends crashing on his couch or the occasional line about shopping at the Gap are supported by liquid basslines and cartoonish impersonations of nasal characters from Parliament songs. Two off-kilter singles, "Mistadobalina" and "Dr. Bombay," meld rolling rhythms with laid-back samples and manage to sound inspired even 20 years later. Revisiting the album with its place in hip-hop history in mind, it becomes apparent that Del was going it alone in every respect. While aided on the record by the still-new Hieroglyphics crew, Del's rhymes are almost always first-person narratives from deep inside a youthful head space of everyday experiences. Whether he's avoiding harassment on the bus ("The Wacky World of Rapid Transit"), dissing Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer through a stoned haze ("Pissin' On Your Steps"), or doing something as banal as walking us through his morning routine ("Sunny Meadowz"), Del is on a solo mission, an almost isolated perspective on party rap where not a single house party or group event gets so much as a mention. The lone wolf underpinnings that flow through this debut would go on to define much of his later career. After laying the groundwork for Souls of Mischief, Pharcyde, Digable Planets, and many others with his first few solo joints, Del would take detours into conceptual interstellar rap-opera territory with his Deltron 3030 album and then cameo on two of the strongest tracks on the first album by Brit-pop/trip-hop sensations Gorillaz before taking long leaves of absence from the public eye. He's clearly been writing his own rules since the beginning, and the lucid dreaming and everyday observations of I Wish My Brother George Was Here are the first and some of the best examples of this, and how wonderful the results can be.

tags: del tha funkee homosapien, the, funky, i wish my brother george was here, 1991, flac,

Deltron 3030 - Deltron 3030 (2000)

*First pressing. Contains 21 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2000 75 Ark
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
The heir apparent to eccentric production wizard Prince Paul, Dan the Automator's left-field conceptual brilliance rapidly made him a hero to underground hip-hop fans. For the Deltron 3030 project, he teamed up with likeminded MC Del tha Funkee Homosapien and turntablist Kid Koala, both cult favorites with a similarly goofy sense of humor. Deltron 3030's self-titled debut is exactly what you might expect from such a teaming: a wildly imaginative, unabashedly geeky concept album about interplanetary rap warriors battling to restore humanity's hip-hop supremacy in a corporate-dominated dystopia (or something like that). It's difficult to follow the concept all the way through, but it hardly matters, because Deltron 3030 is some of the best work both Del and Dan have ever done. In fact, it's the Automator's most fully realized production effort to date, filled with sumptuous, densely layered soundscapes that draw on his classical background and, appropriately, often resemble a film score. For his part, Del's performance here revitalized his reputation, thanks to some of his best, most focused work in years. Long known for his abstract, dictionary-busting lyrics, Del proves he can even rhyme in sci-fi technospeak, and the overarching theme keeps his more indulgent impulses in check. Plus, there's actually some relevant commentary to be unearthed from all the oddball conceptual trappings; in fact, Deltron 3030 is probably the closest hip-hop will ever come to an equivalent of Terry Gilliam's Brazil. The album boasts cameos by Damon Albarn (on the proto-Gorillaz "Time Keeps on Slipping"), Prince Paul, MC Paul Barman, and Sean Lennon, among others, but the stellar turns by its two main creators are the focus. It's not only one of the best albums in either of their catalogs, but one of the best to come out of the new underground, period.

tags: deltron 3030, deltron 3030 album, 2000, flac,

Various Artists - Held Up: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2000)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop, R&B
Style: Gangsta Rap, Pop Rap
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© 2000 Spot Music Group, Inc.
AllMusic Review by Stacia Proefrock
Held Up is a comedy of errors starring Jamie Foxx. Traveling through an all-white community in the Southwest, Foxx becomes part of a hostage situation in a convenience store -- because of his race the police believe that he must be one of the perpetrators. The soundtrack features some of the biggest names in hip-hop and R&B, including Queen Latifah, Tony Toni Toné, and the Boo-Yaa Tribe. Highlights also include "Wrong Place, Wrong Time" by JT the Bigga Figga.

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Toni Braxton - Libra (2005)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 2005 Blackground Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Libra marks Toni Braxton's departure from Arista, her longtime label. It was a stormy relationship that ended with the fast death of 2002's fine More Than a Woman. Only one Neptunes-produced single was spun off from it, which peaked somewhere in the eighties of the Hot 100. Half a year after the album's release, Braxton was off Arista and on the Universal-distributed Blackground, but Libra didn't surface until fall of 2005. (Granted, Braxton's no stranger to protracted gaps in her release schedule.) Libra offers no surprises. It's lean and balanced, just like all other Braxton albums, though too many songs are tepid and merely functional for background listening, so it winds up a safe distance from the likes of the self-titled debut and Secrets. "Take This Ring," produced by Rich Harrison, adds some unexpected rambunctiousness, yet it's about one-tenth as exciting as Amerie's like-sounding "1 Thing" (also Harrison's work). Beyond the obvious single choices -- produced by big names like Scott Storch and Bryan-Michael Cox -- two songs handled by the Underdogs' Antonio Dixon ("Sposed to Be" and "Finally") are as sublime and plush as any other pair in Braxton's catalog. Although this is her spottiest album to date, her fans shouldn't have any trouble appreciating it.

tags: toni braxton, libra, libra album, 2005, flac,

Jurassic 5 - Power In Numbers (2002)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2002 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Like a few other notable sophomore records from hip-hop acts (De La Soul Is Dead, The Low End Theory), Jurassic 5's Power in Numbers is darker than their first full-length; not as fresh and exuberant, but much more mature and intelligent. Granted, fans may not be happy to hear they've changed the formula so soon, or that the production doesn't play a starring role as it did on Quality Control. Instead, DJ Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist play it close to the vest, setting off the rhymes with a few well-placed beats and split-second samples (as well as the usual flute loops). Of course, allowing more room to hear four of the best rappers in hip-hop twisting tongues and telling tales has to be welcomed, and Jurassic 5 prove up to the added responsibility. Displaying a focus and intensity basically unseen in rap music during the past decade, the group practically bursts with message tracks; the skeletal first single "Freedom" finds Chali 2na and Akil delving into the concept as it relates to everything from Third World poverty to the American penitentiary system. "Remember His Name" and "Thin Line" (the latter with Nelly Furtado) are dark tales of urban passions, and they're a step forward in that it's not just the raps that are intricate, but the storytelling also requires a few listens to understand. The group still has plenty of time for a few old-school anthems like "What's Golden" and "A Day at the Races," with Big Daddy Kane bringing his alliterative ammo to the track. And the instrumental jam "Acetate Prophets" shows DJ Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist refining their skill for merging turntablism and excellent productions. Perhaps the best statement of Jurassic 5's purpose comes from the group itself, on "If You Only Knew": "What we do is try to give you what you ain't used to."

tags: jurassic 5, power in numbers, 2002, flac,

Jurassic 5 - Feedback (2006)

*European pressing. Contains 1 bonus track with 16 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2006 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Leading up to the release of Feedback, Jurassic 5 rapper Soup distanced his group from the rap underground that had embraced his music, but apparently had not paid enough of his bills. "It's a step up for us because we have been basically known as an underground group.... We've been known as a backpacker group." Indeed, after years of bringing their live show to thousands of scattered festival-goers (Lollapalooza, Warped, Bonnaroo, Reading), the group reached for the same type of commercialized sweet spot that had made Black Eyed Peas one of the hottest things in rap during the mid-2000s. That doesn't mean more sex, but it does mean more anthems, more featured appearances, and more sounds from the contemporary rap charts. With producer Cut Chemist gone for a solo production career, the group focused heavily on their other in-house source, DJ Nu-Mark, who contributes an opener in "Back 4 U" that makes it sound as though nothing has changed in the Jurassic camp. His pair of Sugar Hill tributes later in the album ("Radio," "In the House") end up being highlights of the album, not because they're stellar, but because the outside producers come up short so often. Interscope may have sprung for some of the most expensive for-hire producers -- Scott Storch (famous for 50 Cent, T.I., Lil' Kim, and the Roots) and Salaam Remi (Fugees, Nas, Ludacris, Joss Stone) -- but any savvy listener can go right down the track listing and match nearly every production to the source that prompted it being co-opted here. "Baby Please" is a horn-led Neptunes rewrite, "Gotta Understand" a second-rate Kanye West production (complete with Curtis Mayfield's sampled crooning), and "Get It Together" tries to capitalize on the fad of catchy whistling hooks already defined by Juelz Santana's "There It Go! (The Whistle Song)." The first single, a sunny singalong titled "Work It Out," also has little to recommend itself -- especially not the contributions of the Dave Matthews Band. Against productions this diluted, Jurassic's top-notch rhymers -- Chali 2na, Soup, Akil -- fail to make any headway, usually spitting rhymes already familiar to listeners of their earlier work.

tags: jurassic 5, feedback, 2006, flac,

May 28, 2019

Re-Flex - The Politics of Dancing (1983)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave
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© 1983-1993 One Way/CEMA Special Markets
AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook
Taking a back seat to first-tier new wave dance acts like ABC, Spandau Ballet, and Visage, Re-Flex lasted long enough for this breakthrough debut and one career-ending follow-up. Enlisting producer John Punter of Roxy Music and Japan fame, the band come up with something of a new wave smorgasbord on The Politics of Dancing: the mix veers from hyper, synth-ridden dance cuts and smoothly sophisticated pop, to Gary Numan-inspired excursions and disco-fied new wave. Even with the admirable breadth, though, the album is mostly a bland array of robotic bass and drums, effects-riddled guitars, and annoying keyboard accents. To the band's credit, the songwriting is impressive at times, especially on the title track and "Hitline," and lead singer Baxter's vocals are admirable in their own, Bowie-rehashed way. The album's future cutout-bin status, though, was sealed with aimless funk like "Jungle" and the Toto-aping MOR of "Sensitive." Approach with tongue firmly in cheek.

tags: reflex, re-flex, the politics of dancing, 1983, flac,

The Outfield - Play Deep (1985)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1985 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Mike DeGagne
Play Deep, the Outfield's debut album, contains a couple of singles that settled quite nicely into mid-'80s radio. Guided by Tony Lewis' airborne vocals and John Spinks' regimented guitar bluster, they managed to place two of the album's best songs within Billboard's Top 20. "Your Love" made it all the way to the number six spot in March of 1986, thanks to Lewis' high-pitched holler that dominates the opening of the song and a harmonious chorus that is overly smooth and rock savvy. Peaking at number 19 four months later, "All the Love in the World" is an unblemished rock tune with an effectively echoed vocal track, again highlighting the band's sweet-sounding consonance mixed in with rugged guitar work. The uncharted material sounds just as fluent and is anything but filler, especially efforts like "Say It Isn't So" and "I Don't Need Her," along with slower songs like "Everytime You Cry." Play Deep is a worthy first release from this British trio, led by a novel guitar and vocal concoction

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The Outfield - Voices of Babylon (1989)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1989 CBS Records
AllMusic Review by Doug Stone
The world quit listening, but the Outfield continued to make tight, glistening pop records. Even though hook virtuoso John Spinks tries for lyrical content that digs deeper than Josie leaving on a vacation far away, all that matters is that Voices of Babylon showcases sharp harmonies, crackling guitar, and the always remarkable vocals of Tony Lewis. Thus, the Outfield recedes into history as yet another shining power pop band unjustly ignored and lost forever. 'Tis truly tragedy worthy of the Bard himself.

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Damageplan - New Found Power (2004)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Groove Metal
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© 2004 Elektra Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Post-Pantera, Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul have hooked up with bassist Bob Zilla (aka Bob Kakaha) and vocalist Pat Lachman (Diesel Machine, Halford) for Damageplan, a shaped charge packed with the shrapnel of 21st century metal. Using Dime and Vinnie's infamously gluttonous groove as an adhesive, New Found Power plows through a mostly entertaining aggro-metal slag heap of berserk thrash workouts and melodic post-grunge, the style pile topped with the rusted-out hunks of death and trad-metal. (Underscoring the latter, Zakk Wylde's wind-whipping gonzo solos appear on two tracks). Previously known only as a guitarist, Lachman turns out to be a pretty strong frontman. He matches wits ably with Dimebag's spiky guitar woops during the opening jab and hook of "Wake Up" and "Breathing New Life," and really hits his stride with the galloping double bass and ripping, Deftones-style screed of the title track. "New Found Power" seems to be the new configuration's mantra, as Lachman bellows "It's time to rip the chain from your neck/Let go the past as you purge" with scary conviction. Damageplan seems especially determined to loosen the irons that bind them to the Pantera anvil, as New Found Power continually plays its more pummeling side of tracks that reference the tried and true plod of grunge, or that movement's post-millennial residue. The introspective "Pride" and half-time shred of "Moment of Truth" reach all the way back to early-'90s Seattle, while "Save Me" and "Blink of an Eye" represent that sound as it exists in the present, marrying tortured soul searching to slight touches of electronic programming and hard-hitting, but ultimately simplistic riffs. Damageplan's seething intensity never falters, from New Found Power's explosive cover art to the album's punishing production. But the smash 'n' grab stylistics of cuts like "Blunt Force Trauma," and the aforementioned "Pride" push them pretty close to the increasingly homogenous post-grunge pack. Fortunately, New Found Power never slips over that precipice. There's too much solid material here, from the bone-snapping metalcore of "Fuck You" (with Slipknot's Corey Taylor helping out), to "Explode," which features some of Dimebag and Vinnie's strongest collaborative work. Damageplan has a bit of jelling to do, but that should come with touring. In the meantime, New Found Power is a blazing new beginning.

tags: damageplan, damage plan, new found power, 2004, flac,

May 27, 2019

Jurassic 5 - Quality Control (2000)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2000 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
In June 2000, almost seven years after their formation, underground rap's most lauded crew finally hit with a full-length. Great expectations aside, Quality Control hits all the same highs as Jurassic 5's excellent EP of three years earlier, stretching out their résumé to nearly an hour with a few turntablist jaunts from resident beat-jugglers DJ Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist. The formula is very similar to the EP, with the group usually going through a couple of lines of five-man harmonics before splitting off for tongue-twister solos from Zaakir, Chali 2na, Akil, and Marc 7even. As expected, there are plenty of nods to old-school rap, from "Lausd," with its brief tribute to hip-hop classic "The Bridge" by MC Shan, to "Monkey Bars," where the group claim inspiration (yet just a bit of distance) from their heroes: "Now you know us but it's not the Cold Crush, four MCs so it ain't the Furious/Not the Force M.D.'s or the three from Treacherous, it's a blast from the past from the moment we bust." Where Quality Control really laps previous Jurassic 5 material is not only the lyrical material, though, but the themes and focus of the message tracks "Lausd," "World of Entertainment (Woe Is Me)," and "Contribution." The four-man crew take on major media and the responsibilities of adulthood with a degree of authority, eloquence, and compassion never before heard in rap music. (Just check out the lyrics to any of the above three at an online archive like www.ohhla.com.) Though critics and uptight rap purists might fault them for not pushing the progression angle enough, Jurassic 5's rhymes are so devastating and the productions (by Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist) follow the raps so closely it certainly doesn't matter whether the group is old-school or not.

tags: jurassic 5, quality control, 2000, flac,

Killah Priest - View From Masada (2000)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2000 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Matt Conaway
With his 1998 debut, Heavy Mental, Killah Priest dropped so much knowledge that it literally seemed as if this metaphysical brother from the planet of Brooklyn was on another mental plan. Yet, even though his spacy production and spiritually enlightening wordplay went over the heads of many, at the very least it made for an interesting listening session. After a two-year hiatus the street preacher re-emerges, but in a distinctly less profound fashion, as his sophomore effort, View From Masada is neither a natural nor cohesive progression. While KP's narrative abilities are evident on the title track, his frequent and disorienting shifts between scholar ("Hard Times") and thug ("Gotta Eat") are ripe with contrast and hard to swallow. If Masada proves anything, it simply reiterates just how prevalent commercialism has become in the hip-hop culture, as no one is safe from its lure -- not even a Priest

tags: killah priest, view from masada, 2000, flac,

Dead Prez - Lets Get Free (2000)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2000 Loud Records
AllMusic Review by Matt Conaway
Signed to a label (Loud) notorious for its astute thug philosophers (Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, and Big Pun), Dead Prez's empowering debut, Lets Get Free, seems like a misplaced oddity. Yet the disputatious duo of SticMan and M1 would be an oddity on any label, as they shoulder the burden of revitalizing a genre (problack) which has been seemingly erased from the collective consciousness. Taking social activism to new heights, Dead Prez are the most revolutionary hip-hop group to emerge since Public Enemy lost their audience and N.W.A disbanded. SticMan and M1 chronicle a broad range of politically pressing issues which pertain to the black community -- from the inadequacies of inner-city public schooling ("They Schools") to socially repressive bureaucracies ("Police State"). But Dead Prez are more then just agenda and rhetoric; the group's topical diversity is equally inspiring, seamlessly shifting from the mind-pillaging "Psychology" into the conversational foreplay of "Mind Sex." Yet it is "Animal in Man" that best illustrates just how innovative this group can be.

tags: dead prez, lets get free, 2000, flac,

Dead Prez - RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta (2004)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2004 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Though their methods aren't subtle, Dead Prez are as intelligent and philosophical a group of social activists as Public Enemy or Boogie Down Productions -- it's just that their philosophies stray more to the Geto Boys style of extreme criminal fantasies. RBG stands for Revolutionary But Gangsta, a stance that the Dead Prez duo Stic and M1 back up with tale after lurid tale of inner-city life. They're showing their listeners how to strive and how to survive, whether it means scamming welfare or credit cards for all they're worth ("Hell Yeah [Pimp the System]"), decrying the messages of commercial radio ("Radio Freq"), or dreaming of responding to organized violence with a police-station drive-by. They're not without a sense of humor ("F***ed Up" is a cautionary alcoholic's tale that prompts the line, "Let's make a toast to my liver and my kidneys"), but without clear lines between fact and fantasy, it's impossible to tell where the group is attempting to educate and where they're attempting to entertain. (Chuck D and KRS-One knew well not to confront their listeners with every track they wrote.) Jay-Z stops by for a rhyme on a remix of "Hell Yeah (Pimp the System)," but even he sounds constrained (and understandably so) by the subject matter.

tags: dead prez, rbg revolutionary bu gangsta, 2004, flac,